Without questioning these incongruities, Annie, Edward and Stephanie spend the night eating and drinking greedily, gratefully, lingering in the open air of their newly expanded quarters long after Rose falls asleep. For Annie, the additional square footage offers “a reunion with herself,” Leichter writes. “She had been accommodating some unknown injury for years. … Now, standing on the terrace, she woke to find her forgotten wound healed.”
No matter how “solid” the ground beneath them starts to feel, when Stephanie leaves, the terrace disappears. The couple summon their friend again and again, clinging to the version of their home, of themselves, that exists only in her company.
This is the novel’s elegant speculation: the possibility of embellishing the banal architecture of a life, of opening a physical door onto another, more desired existence at will. Even without the Marvel-like theatrics of “Everything Everywhere,” Leichter’s fiction leaves you similarly dizzy with longing — for the versions of yourself now beyond reach, for the people you imagined beside you who are no longer.
Leichter delicately stretches this longing across all four sections, not just as the impetus for space-time expansion, but as space itself, cavernous and protracted, intoxicating but desperately lonely. Early on, “Annie noticed real sadness along the edges of Stephanie’s voice and tried to locate what kind of space those edges indicated, how that space wanted to fill itself.” We learn that Stephanie witnessed the death of her younger sister in childhood, spent the funeral “expanding the size of the grave” with her mind, burrowing it so far into the ground that her sister came out the other side, alive: “They could both continue living as long as they were on opposite ends of the earth, Stephanie decided.”
Of course, the act of creation, of generating matter seemingly from nothing, is not just theoretical. Anchoring this story is a lineage of women, Rose and her progenitors and progeny — Annie and Lydia and Lydia’s daughter, Anne — women whose bodies swell to accommodate new futures again and again, “a surge of space hidden in an already expanding pattern.”