Andrea de Majewski's unpublished novel The Heart of the Ever Expanding Universe is about a lesbian with a house, a dog, a social conscience, a taste for drugs, and a crush on the housewife next door. It begins and ends in a Civic. The protagonist is Carmen. At the beginning of the novel she is driving home from work filled with thoughts about physics, wind, annoying drivers, smoking, her ex-girlfriend, her disinterest in having children ("No children had been, nor would be, issued from her womb"), and her new neighbors, whose moving truck is parked in front of Carmen's house as she pulls up. In the last sentence in the novel, Carmen is driving to a nursery to buy new plants for her garden, and the day is compared to the ripeness of a grapefruit.

Like Kierkegaard, de Majewski is interested in loneliness, abstraction, dread, passion, and the self. (The novel carries an epigram by Kierkegaard.) Unlike Kierkegaard, she is also interested in beer and lesbian sex. In a way, The Heart of the Ever Expanding Universe is a book of ideas dressed up as a comedy of lesbian manners. It is not without shortcomings, but as this is a glowing review purchased by one of the author's roommates through The Stranger's Strangercrombie holiday catalog, I will focus entirely on the novel's strengths.

The structure is perfect. That sentence I quoted above—"No children had been, nor would be, issued from her womb"—seems jarring when you get to it on page two, but a hundred pages later, when Carmen is deciding to become a foster parent to one of the young men at the juvenile detention facility where she works, you realize its purpose in setting you up for a consideration of what it means to be a parent.

The wife in the family next door, Meredith, is a gardener, and Carmen is also a gardener, which is a tidy way of bringing the two characters together. Their relationship is friendly at first; gradually Carmen realizes she has a crush on Meredith; at one point Meredith smokes pot with Carmen in Carmen's basement, confounding Carmen's perception of Meredith as a squeaky-clean yuppie; soon enough the women are making out in the bathroom at a bar; then they are having sex in Carmen's basement. Meredith admits to having lesbian desires, although she is devoted to her husband and her family, and the choice Meredith ultimately has to make—between her family and Carmen—provides the bulk of the novel's suspense. Carmen's courtship of Meredith provides the book's best dialogue, some of it everyday language, some of it funny stoner talk. Here is Carmen waxing seductive on the topic of cosmology: "The question of whether the expanding universe keeps expanding forever, or eventually slows down, stops, and begins contracting under its own gravity, back to the original singularity, is a very emotional one, I think."

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That is hilarious. So are Carmen's thoughts about herself ("Forget sodomy, Carmen thought, what's abhorrent and unnatural is a single lesbian"), yuppies moving into her gentrifying neighborhood ("It made Carmen want to put a junk car up on blocks in her front yard"), child-rearing ("It wasn't a mystery how to make kids happy. It was just exhausting, boring, and annoying"), and the productive effects of cocaine, a drug that helps her get into doing chores ("Soon, she was blissfully lost in the feather-duster ballet"). Carmen's list of things that make life worth living is as follows: "Trees, Jimi Hendrix, original Star Trek, cocaine, cheese and crackers."

In spite of its light, entertaining qualities, The Heart of the Ever Expanding Universe has ambitions toward something deeper and darker. In chapter 14, Carmen, feeling "unfinished, imperfect, and unsure," asks the moon, "Where am I going?" In chapter 28, she finds herself looking at the moon again, which is now two moons, because she is crying, and her mortality weighs on her. For Carmen, there is redemption, or at least solace, in the natural world. At the end of the book—I'm not giving anything away here—she is admiring her "dormant and sturdy" garden and her "flexible, meaty" dwarf Japanese maple. The sun is shining. She is happy.