It’s the early 1980s and Phoebe is seeking a “golden” life. She had a taste of it while in college at Brown University and believes she’ll find it in New York City. After graduation, she follows her friend Carmen to Manhattan, seeking to emulate her. They wind up living in the East Village on Avenue A in a building formerly rented by Carmen’s junkie boyfriend’s dealer, who has been incarcerated. Their gritty neighborhood is filled with artists, drugs and people living on the streets. The hope of a glamorous life excites Phoebe, who wants to remain as far from her hometown of Baltimore as possible.
After two traumatic events, Phoebe starts adopting some of Carmen's self-destructing behavior. One bright spot is finding work as a fortuneteller at a popular club as "Astrid – The Star Girl." Her complicated relationship with Carmen is an on-going challenge as they both try to find themselves.
Astrid Sees All is an often sad and depressing book as it highlights two young women desperately searching for something meaningful yet are at risk of becoming lost souls. While I was hoping for a more upbeat novel, author Natalie Standiford does an excellent job painting an accurate picture of a very specific period of time and place that no longer exists. The club Plutonium where Phoebe works is a dead ringer for the club Area, a place I’ll never forget. While I was more of an observer than a participant in it, the downtown New York City scene was exciting, it was sexy and it was often scary. This book may not be for everyone but if you are interested in this period or lived through it, it is a worthwhile step back in time.
Rated 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 6, 2021.