Book Review: “Innocents and Others”

“Innocents and Others” begins with the promise of a love story. Author Dana Spiotta tells a story of the love that exists between friends and how it relates to our images of ourselves. College is a crucial time to experiment with who we are and how we want the world to see us, and this novel’s exploration into that struggle is both relatable and strikingly original. 

The novel follows no organized plot, but rather interweaves the tales of three women and their art. Meadow Mori films critical documentaries, her best friend Carrie Wexler makes feminist blockbuster comedies and Jelly, who becomes the subject of one of Meadow’s films, cold-calls powerful men as a seduction tactic. I was fascinated by the way in which each woman’s chosen art form is an attempt to combat inner anxieties: Meadow wants to make a lasting impression upon the world, Carrie is a people-pleaser who desires intimacy and Jelly suffers from low self-esteem, wanting only to be made to feel beautiful. 

Through her depictions of Meadow, Carrie and Jelly, Spiotta investigates both the connection and the contrast between the images we have of ourselves and the images we show to the world. Spiotta’s exploration of how these images affect relationships is particularly captivating. Meadow and Carrie’s mutual love for filmmaking begins their friendship, making for one of the most endearing sections of the novel when they first meet and feature each other in their hobby films. I wanted to see more moments illustrating the affection between Carrie and Meadow, but the novel is original in its stark depiction of love that remains even in times of conflict. Meadow’s need to be important means that she fails Carrie, who only wants to be close to Meadow, time and time again – but their love for each other remains steady even as their art forms and life goals begin to clash. 

Jelly, too, is let down when Meadow’s absorption with making an impact plays on Jelly’s insecurities. I struggled to empathize with Jelly – I felt that Spiotta did not give her enough strength of character or room to grow, whereas Meadow’s eccentricities and sharp edges paint her in an alluring light. 

Spiotta combines different mediums to tell her story, such as conversations from the womens’ films, documentary features on the women and phone calls. This technique gives the novel a collage feel that is relevant to the way we tell our own stories; think Snapchat, Facebook, texting, Instagram, all the different modes we use to try to give the world a coherent picture of the person we wish to expose. Each and every one of us has a concept of ourselves and an idea of what we would like the world to see, and for this reason I found Spiotta’s novel to be extremely relevant. It made me question the image of myself that I project, what I conceal behind it and who sees through my imagery – and loves me anyway. “Innocents and Others” scrutinizes the way in which we represent ourselves to our world, but at the core, this is a beautiful snapshot of the harmony that can exist between true friendship and art.