Reluctant to disadvantage her daughter because of her own progressivism, Karen lies about her residential address in order to sneak Ruby into a school that is less diverse than Betts but more financially flush, thanks to more affluent parents — the kind who arrange play dates by saying, “Have your nanny text our nanny.” Karen is, however, a virtuoso of guilt, and to assuage hers she embezzles money from the new school and mails it to Betts. By the time her lies and stealing are revealed, she realizes that her “negativity was like a wisteria vine that, if left to its own devices, would creep into every last crevice of her conscience.” So she returns Ruby to Betts, leaving behind the school where “the experimental puppeteering troupe Stringtheory is performing a kid-friendly version of ‘Schindler’s List.’ ”
Rosenfeld’s novel is a glimpse of how arduous life is for progressives, bowed as they are beneath the crushing weight of every choice’s immense social significance. Convinced that people, like the planet, are frightfully fragile — vulnerable to ingesting refined flour and countless other dangers — it’s no wonder that progressives want a caring government to superintend our lives. This is for our own good, so they are, in their meddlesome way, nice. They also are tuckered out by their incontinent conscientiousness, so take one to lunch, if you can think of something he or she will eat.