Acts of Service by Lilian Fishman
Published by Hogarth Press
Adult, Literary Fiction, Queer
Release Date : May 3rd 2022
A provocative debut of sex and sexuality as a twenty-something New Yorker pursues a sexual freedom that follows no other lines than her own desire.
If sex is a truth-teller, Eve–a young, queer woman in Brooklyn–is looking for answers. On an evening when she is feeling particularly impulsive, she posts some nude photos of herself online. This is how Eve meets Olivia, and through Olivia, the charismatic Nathan–and soon the three begin a relationship that disturbs Eve as much as it delights her. As each act of the affair unfolds, Eve is left to ask: to whom is she responsible? And to what extent do our desires determine who we are?
In the way that only great fiction can, Acts of Service takes between its teeth the contradictions written all over our ideas of sex and sexuality. As incisive as it is exhilarating, this novel asks us to face our ideas about desire and power: what sex means to us, the forces that shape it, and how we find–or lose–ourselves in intimacy. At once juicy and intellectually challenging, sacred and profane, it might be the most thought-provoking book you read all year.
“You know, I don’t have any idea. I think that first I have to get the thing I want, and maybe then I can figure out why I wanted it. Or whether it’s good.”
Acts of Service is an exploration on the correlation between lust, sex, and desire written with the alluring sultry prose of Fishman that will surely get you addicted in this stunning debut.
Acts of Service is a book that features a queer woman, Eve, that posted her nudes online on an anonymous website motivated by her vanity. Her post attracted a lot of attention from people but she doesn’t give them her attention. But somehow one comment caught her eye to the point of responding. Upon meeting said commentor, Olivia, Eve is offered with proposition that caught her off guard. From then on Eve starts a lustful and consensual relationship with Olivia and her boyfriend Nathan. This arrangement started of sexual but Eve’s curiosity on Olivia and Nathan’s relationship got her invested, involved, and addicted. Her fascination towards Olivia branches towards Nathan’s charisma that compelled her to do and be something more. It is an entanglement of passion, lust, and dripping with sex.
“What a pleasure it was to be obvious, even if what was obvious was nearly my body. I knew that it haunted women that their bodies were designated for sex. Even as an adolescnet I had know that. Had approached my body with fear as much as hope. Yet with Nathan I feel deep relief with how obvious it seemed to him that my body had a purpose, a nature, one that he could access naturally. […] In some way we had been brought up to be weary toward all women’s bodies.”
Lilian Fishman brings forth prose that flirts with readers in a sensual and curious manner. Inviting readers to come forth analyzing the complex tangled relationship between Eve, Olivia, and Nathan. For the most part readers are welcomed into Eve’s mind. Her thoughts starts of curious and concerned that grew to become lustful, invested, and sometimes drunk of her addiction to be lusted upon.
She completely surrenders herself to Nathan like prey to predator. It changed the course of her motive that solely focused on Olivia at first to a man that knows how to wield his abilities to pleasure Eve subduing her to his control. It is addicting to witness as a reader how Eve comes to form a relationship with Nathan that is no longer just business but with affection and attentiveness of real lover. But its important to note this relationship started off with agency of pleasure and desire.
During the beginning Fishman’s way of writing pulled me in as the story progresses but then towards the middle I became less interested as the story plateaus until the very end. It didn’t feel like there is more to Eve’s nuance thoughts about her situation as she just comes to term with it, falling into the arrangement that gives her a lot of pleasure. The sudden conflict that is left unresolved added in the last two chapters was a big change of pace that didn’t make quite sense.
There are discussions about relationships, power dynamics, consent, agency, and manipulation. It is an alluring concept of manipulation that hides lies behind false assurances and promises of pleasure. By the time you start reading it is really hard to put down this book as Lilian Fishman will keep you glued to her magnetic way of story telling. There is pleasure even in toxic relationships with unhealthy dynamics but it is a choice Eve have committed herself towards.
“A life knows that it needs a shape and, taking cues from films and lives it has glimpsed, chooses a core around which to bend itself. A life recognizes the theater in which its keeper appears most real.”
Final thoughts, Acts of Service is a good debut book that introduces Lilian Fishman’s strength as a writer to craft a compelling story with luscious prose and interesting themes. I really enjoyed reading about Eve as she navigates through her life as a twenty-something woman in New York that is just enjoying her life as she follows her instinct and desire. I genuinely think that I am at that point in my life that stories like Eve’s really intrigue me. Though my life is completely different from Eve’s it is a fun thing to live vicariously through her.