Missed Connections

Habitués of the Seamless-ad-plastered, device-laden streets of New York City will recognize the emotional dystopia created by the author Courtney Maum in her sweet and funny second novel, Touch (Putnam), a vision of the very, very near future in which “the only thing that people wanted was to stay alive and order takeout and play quietly with their phones.” It’s a reality that Maum’s protagonist Sloane Jacobsen, an “uber anti-mom” and a rock star of trend forecasting, has done her part to usher in. Sloane is famous for having predicted the swipe. Now, her well-tuned cultural ESP has been hitched to a Manhattan tech behemoth’s efforts to sell smart devices to the newly hip, childless-by-choice masses, while her life partner, who professes a new form of intimacy called “neo-sensualism,” treats disconnection as a kind of fetish. Yet Sloane senses that something’s gone wrong: specifically, the loss of tactility, empathy, sex, and “in-personism” that people (including her) really want. A sharp yet feeling satire, Touch bristles with insights into the longing for warm, messy, inefficient, and imperfect human life buried in our increasingly streamlined, disembodied now.