What Happened to Sophie Wilder
By Christopher Beha
Tin House Books, 2012
Charlie Blakeman is a young writer in New York. He has published a novel that didn’t take off, and is living with his cousin Max, a film critic. Charlie and Max have regularly have parties in the Washington Square apartment they are housesitting. And although Charlie’s life seems exciting and cosmopolitan, he feels disengaged from it, until Sophie Wilder, a love from college who he has not seen in many years, unexpectedly shows up. Sophie too is feeling lost in her life and has recently separated from her husband. The book unfolds in the weeks after Sophie’s reappearance and alternates between them getting to know each other again, and flashbacks to their college days, where they met in a creative writing class.
I wasn’t sure what I thought of this book at first, mainly because I am suspect of novels with writers as main characters and this one has two, but Charlie and Sophie are bound by more than their love of writing. Both of Sophie’s parents have passed and Charlie lost his father. Sophie also took care of her former husband’s dying father. As the story twisted and turned, I became more engrossed in the book until it ended at a very unexpected place. I continue to puzzle over the ending (which I won’t reveal), and feel the book is ultimately about the people in our lives and to what extent we choose them or they choose us to be our companions. There is also a spiritual theme to the book, as Sophie converts to Catholicism in college and goes to church regularly.