The Odyssey

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Pub Date 26 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 30 Apr 2022


From the prize-winning author of Supper Club comes a wickedly funny and slyly poignant new satire on modern life. For fans of Sally Rooney, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Convenience Store Woman.

Ingrid works on a gargantuan luxury cruise liner where she spends her days reorganizing the gift shop shelves and waiting for long-term guests to drop dead in the aisles. On her days off, she disembarks from the ship, wasting the hours aimlessly following tourists around, drinking the local alcohol, and buying clothes she never intends to wear again. It’s not a bad life. At least, it distracts her from thinking about the other life—the other person—she left behind five years ago.

That is, until the day she is selected by the ship’s enigmatic captain and (ill-informed) wabi sabi devotee, Keith, for his mentorship program. Encouraging her to reflect on past mistakes and her desperation to remain lost at sea, Keith pushes Ingrid further than she ever thought possible. But as her friendships and professional life onboard steadily fall apart, Ingrid must ask herself: how do you know when you have gone too far? 

Utterly original, mischievous, and thought-provoking, The Odyssey is a merciless takedown of consumer capitalism and our anxious, ill-fated quests to find something to believe in. It’s a voyage that will lead our heroine all the way home, though she will do almost anything to avoid getting there.

From the prize-winning author of Supper Club comes a wickedly funny and slyly poignant new satire on modern life. For fans of Sally Rooney, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Convenience Store Woman.

Ingrid works...

A Note From the Publisher

Lara Williams is the author of A Selfie As Big As The Ritz and Supper Club. A Selfie As Big As The Ritz was shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, the Edinburgh First Book Award and the Saboteur Awards and longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize, and Supper Club won the Guardian 'Not the Booker' Prize, was named as a Book of the Year 2019 by TIME and Vogue, and has been translated into six languages. Lara Williams lives in Manchester in the UK and is a contributor to the Guardian, Independent, Times Literary Supplement, Vice, Dazed and others.

Lara Williams is the author of A Selfie As Big As The Ritz and Supper Club. A Selfie As Big As The Ritz was shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, the Edinburgh First Book Award and the...

Advance Praise

Rave Reviews for Supper Club:

"[Williams] decants her first novel into flights, like wine....Confer[s] dignity on the small, quotidian self-adjustments that women are always making in order to survive....This is one of Williams's strengths: an exquisite patience with the emerging texture of emotion. As a stylist, she is subtle and superbly attentive....But where Williams truly shines is, if you'll forgive me, in the kitchen. The food in the book eats you. (It literally changed my dinner plans.)...These interludes perfume the narrative, like aromatics in a stock, imparting a depth of flavor that resurfaces stylishly when you least expect it."—The New York Times Book Review 

"Stephanie Danler's Sweetbitter meets Donna Tartt's The Secret History in this story of female desire, friendship, lust, and, above all, hunger....This novel will alternately make you laugh, tear up, and text your group chat begging to start a wayward dining committee."—Vogue  

"[Williams's] voice feels akin to Sally Rooney's: colloquial, precise, at once uneasy about its place in the world and determined to stand up for itself. The supper club of the title could be read as a feminist take on the anarchic men's group in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club....The central theme here is women's oppression by men, and Williams's take on it is powerful and original....The joy of food--its capacity to be so pleasurable that it can subvert niceness--is well described, as is the complexity of cooking....Williams [takes] the material of the domestic novel and turn[s] it into something more explosive."—The Guardian 

“Supper Club will speak to parts of you that you didn’t know were yearning. A thought-provoking read that will make you hungry for Roberta’s cooking and more of Williams’ insights on women at crossroads.”—Refinery29 

“You’ll want to feast on this book....It’s truly that delicious.”—Cosmopolitan

Rave Reviews for Supper Club:

"[Williams] decants her first novel into flights, like wine....Confer[s] dignity on the small, quotidian self-adjustments that women are always making in order to...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781638930068
PRICE $27.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Thank you Netgalley and Author Lara Williams for this ARC.

Can we start with how amazing the cover is? Was definitely drawn to the book by it and then further intrigued by the blurb.

Story follows Ingrid and her life on a cruise where you get a sense that everyone who works there is escaping their reality. On Ingrid's journey, we meet a few more characters including Mia & Keith who bring out more of Ingrid's character.

At times unexpected, thought-provokative and very easy to engage with story which leaves a lot to reflect on.

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Perfect & creepy & day-glo colors & why you wear white dresses (to watch the day sprinkle it’s dirt on you.) I loved this book.

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I was intrigued by the life of a cruise ship crew member so I chose this book to download on NetGalley. The author, Lara Williams, concocted a peculiar story about consumerism, and people's strange way of pursuing faith in somebody. The story is about Ingrid and her life on the WA ship as a crew member and a mentee to the captain of the ship, Keith. Ingrid's idiosyncrasies, her routines at work, her friendship with other staff, her alcoholism, and her married life make her a unique character.

The Odyssey calls to mind comedies with peculiar characters such as Derek played by Ricky Gervais, and Mr. Bean by Rowan Atkinson. Each of them has unique characteristics and stories that defy common sense and create absurd humor. The characters in The Odyssey make the novel leaves an inerasable mark in my mind.

Thank you, NetGalley, Lara Williams, and Zando for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This was super strange and disturbing and oddly enough I didn't want to put it down. Reading through the perspective of a character like Ingrid felt very perverse, I felt like I was witnessing things that I shouldn't and I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. Lara Williams was unflinching and unapologetic, much like her main character, with her depiction of life and the human experience. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this!

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Dark, intriguing, engaging, unputdownable; "The Odyssey" explores the theme of liminality, of the in-between positioning, both through the character and through the setting.

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This is such a weird book it’s hard to know where to start. Weird doesn’t mean bad though; discomfiting strikes me as a good description for Lara Williams latest book. Having read Supper Club, I knew to expect something in the “messy women” genre. But where Supper Club seemed to be about women taking back their power through food, The Odyssey seemed more about a woman giving up everything to the control of others. Maybe, in the end, to regain her own power though, I’ll admit, it was never entirely clear to me.

Ingrid is our narrator here. She works aboard the WA, a huge cruise ship that has been her whole world for several years now. She cycles through a rotation of jobs – gift shop employee, nail technician, lifeguard – and has only 2 friends, Mia and Ezra, with whom she plays disturbing and odd games. Her life and the novel itself is broken up by incidences of shore leave where she gets obliteratingly drunk and makes increasingly dangerous and unhinged decisions. On board the WA she has been chosen to be part of something referred to only as “The Program”. This is lead by an enigmatic man named Keith who encourages Ingrid to reveal the most intimate details of her past to him.

As someone who doesn’t generally find cruise ships appealing (and especially so in 2022), I thought the setting of the WA was quite brilliantly done. An entire, carnivalesque world unto itself where Ingrid has endless choices at her fingertips but is also trapped. The ship seems enormous but her own space is small and limited. As the novel progresses, the atmosphere of the WA becomes more dangerous, more hideous, and more satirical. The WA, it turns out, is something more like a cult than an ordinary workplace and the things it asks of its employees become more jarring and horrific. Williams does a good job of establishing Ingrid as the sort of character who will go along with these things. And while I actually really dislike reading books where characters make one bad decision after another, I also didn’t struggle to believe that the employees of the WA would do these things. It reminded me of the cults you read about, like NXIM or even some of the more intense MLMs, that demand utter devotion. Ingrid is a character looking to be utterly devoted to something.

As the story progressed, I could feel it ramping it up and I looked forward to the twist or the reveal or the vindication. So I was disappointed in the ending where all of that was only briefly hinted at. I wanted to see Ingrid’s transformation, even if it was into something even more hideous.

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The Odyssey, Lara Williams’ dystopian modern retelling of Homer’s epic poem, is a surreal trip through a troubled woman’s psyche that examines the profound alienation of the contemporary workplace.

Set on a cruise ship run by a mysterious captain and self-anointed lifestyle guru, Keith, the novel follows the monotonous life of gift shop worker Ingrid. Keith is a devoted (if misguided) follower of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi – which centres around finding beauty in every aspect of imperfection in nature. Ingrid finds a sense of purpose when Keith picks her to join an intense employee mentoring program which slowly descends into a cult.

I was intrigued by this book as it was pitched as similar to JG Ballard's High Rise, which it is in some respects, with the closed off cruise ship gradually decaying, but The Odyssey is much more focused on one person's mental state than the cruise ship itself. The blurb compares the book to Ottessa Moshfegh’s, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman and Sally Rooney’s novels and while it contains similar themes to all three – the dangers of capitalism, alienation and search for meaning and belonging and the descent into madness – I have never read anything like this. Reading this story is a disorienting experience, with the feel of a fever dream that becomes increasingly sobering as Ingrid nears closer and closer to her home: both on land, and within herself.

I'm a big fan of an unreliable narrator, and in Ingrid, this is exactly what we get. Williams was effective in creating a protagonist so erratic that I felt physically uncomfortable while reading, jarred not only by the story’s events but by the whiplash of rooting for – and sympathizing with – Ingrid one moment, and then being afraid of her the next.

It is a book that demands of the reader just as much as it rewards them with. All of the characters were so unique, interesting and flawed that I would have liked to have known a bit more about them. It felt like they floated in and out of the novel and could disappear at any time, perhaps onto land without a real explanation of why they were on the boat on the first place, why they left and where they went. And while Ingrid is British, she uses a lot of Americanisms (i.e., “apartment”, “garbage can”), which is confusing as the reader tries to piece together her character.

But Williams has managed to create a gripping takedown of modern workplace culture that explores the desire and struggle to forge human connection and the craving for some semblance of progress and order when one’s life has fallen apart.

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Told from the point of view of a narrator that you can't really trust, this book definitely delves into the "messy woman" genre that I have grown to love. The description compared it to the likes of Sally Rooney and Ottessa Moshfegh, but I would say that I wouldn't necessarily agree with those comparisons, and there's nothing quite like this book out there (at least that I've read).
This book is bizarre and slightly confusing and dark at times, with a pretty unlikeable narrator and unlikeable characters, and I enjoyed reading it so much. I especially liked the way the narrator Ingrid would talk about her past while I as the reader had to kind of piece together what was missing, and I enjoyed how non-chalant the narrator was about some things that happened that she shouldn't have been non-chalant about.
The end of this book left a lot of questions still unanswered, which I would imagine some people would find frustrating, and while I did a little bit, it also felt fitting for the book; I didn't want to get too many answers because that's not what the rest of the book was like.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys unlikeable characters and unreliable narrators and sort of nontraditional plots and books.

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I have no idea what I just read, but I found myself unable to put it down. What does it mean? Is Ingrid in a cult or an mlm management scheme? Does the author truly understand wabi sabi? Does anyone? Cruise ships are scary.

Do not go on a cruise

This was a very strange book but I highly recommend. It.

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