Based Upon Availability chronicles the lives of eight New York women as they pass through Manhattan’s Four Seasons Hotel. As these women’s lives take them through the hotel in some way or another, they all come into contact with Morgan, the hotel manager, who is the common thread in all of their stories.
When I read the publisher’s description of this novel (which is much longer and more detailed than my own, by the way) I was thinking it would be a novel about how these women’s lives intersected, how they became friends, or made connections, or something like that. But what the book was really about was each woman’s personal drama, life trauma, and marital/family issues. Once I understood where the book was going, I was able to settle into the novel and really enjoy it, but I have to admit that it did take a while to get rid of those expectations.
The structure and pacing of this novel was kind of odd to me. It is a novel, yet the chapters about the individual women read like short stories, except for Morgan’s, which takes up the first third of the book. After finishing Morgan’s section and moving on to the other women, I found myself a bit confused – is this a novel or short stories? So I think that transition could have been a bit smoother. That being said, I did enjoy the book despite the choppiness of parts of it.
What I most enjoyed about Based Upon Availability was getting to know the characters. Strauss introduces the reader to eight main characters, and while it was somewhat difficult to keep track of all of their back stories at first, by the end I felt each character was a fully realized, complex, real person. All eight of them had major issues, and some were more sympathetic and interesting than others, but overall I felt for each of them and hoped for a resolution to whatever was going wrong in their lives.
One thing I absolutely loved about the novel was finding the little connections between the characters sprinkled throughout the book. Obviously, Morgan connected with each of them, but there were other little connections too. Characters I didn’t think would know one another ended up connecting in little ways. Also, I enjoyed reading from Morgan’s point of view how she met each of the other women, and then reading from each of the others’ perspectives how that same meeting took place. Very rarely in a novel do you hear multiple versions of the exact same event, and it was interesting to say the least.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience of reading Based Upon Availability. While I didn’t care for the structure of the book, the well-written characters truly saved the story for me. I would absolutely pick up another book by Alix Strauss, as I think she is a very talented writer with much to offer her readers. I recommend Based Upon Availability if you enjoy a solid character-driven read.