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The Last Single Woman In New York City

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

A jilted executive at her most vulnerable falls prey to an anti-marriage guru.
Merkl’s (Back to Work She Goes) novel of heartbreak, the Hamptons, and a crusade against marriage itself follows marketing executive Samantha “Sam” Dennehy on her path down a life crisis of epic proportions. After her fiancé breaks their engagement, Sam throws herself into the launch of her own marketing company, becoming a fiercely independent entrepreneur. When her agency is hired to market the new reality TV show of Hannah Randolph, founder of the Anti-Wife movement, Sam soon finds herself entangled in Hannah’s trendy, unorthodox teachings—and her glittery lifestyle. At the behest of the ever-commanding Hannah, Sam agrees to spend two weeks at her compound in the Hamptons for “a deep dive into [Hannah’s] day-to-day,” but the decision comes at an immense cost for Sam.

Sam, who devotes herself fully to her career, finds herself forging a mostly one-sided friendship with the controversial guru, and, spurred on by Hannah, quickly forgets about her standards while pushing away the most important people in her life, on a journey to heal from wounds she didn’t know she still had. Merkl excels at character development as Sam’s growing relationship with Hannah spotlights their unhealed wounds, stemming from their respective childhoods, giving the tale a rich backstory. Readers will sense Sam sliding down the wrong path but also understand why that trajectory is necessary for her eventual comeback.

With crisp dialogue, a vivid sense of New York City, and prose that refreshes like a summer cocktail, Sam’s story upends the old-fashioned theme of women needing men to heal them from failed relationships. The Anti-Wife movement itself fascinates, seeming invitingly bold at first as it encourages women to get comfortable in their own company and “live life like you mean it—single AF,” but of course Hannah’s teachings turn very toxic very fast. Readers will simmer with tension when Sam loses sight of everything she once held dear, but cheer as she finds her way back and maybe even learns to love again.

Takeaway: Left at the altar, an exec gets caught up in an anti-marriage movement in this sharp summer read.

Great for fans of: Kristan Higgins, Elaine Dundy.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: TK
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A