The Outlook for Earthlings

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The Outlook For Earthlings traces a difficult friendship across a lifetime. Melanie Taper is rule-bound, timid, self-erasing. Yet in unguarded moments she demonstrates such deadly insight into human foibles as to suggest a strength that has, for dark reasons, deliberately hidden itself lifelong. Scarlet Rand is rash, willful, abrasive—vexed by “demure” traits and “small fussing motions.” Shocked by Mel’s passivity and near-archaic saintliness, Scarlet disbelieves it. Their friendship suggests to each a final frontier, a saving sanctuary. Yet at its core each woman takes a secret, moral offense at the other’s inmost nature—and her choices. Against the deadline of the illness which is slowly destroying one of them, a reckoning must occur.

The Outlook for Earthlings considers the limits of friendship—and of witnessing. It asks how we may finally measure a life—and who should do the measuring.

Praise for The Outlook for Earthlings

“Gorgeous, limpid prose exploring vast and nuanced constellations of human love.”

— Elizabeth Rosner, author of Survivor Cafe

“Line by line, The Outlook for Earthlings continually stunned me with its grace. In Frank’s hands, even everyday actions become beautiful. Captures both the agony of adolescence and the quieter disappointments of middle age with skill and insight.”

  Julie Buntin, author of Marlena

“The Outlook for Earthlings offers the gift of Joan Frank’s gorgeous, limpid prose exploring vast and nuanced constellations of human love. Frank’s characters gracefully reveal how choices made, accrue to shape and define our lives—yet how forgiveness may also allow us to transcend those very limitations.”

 —  Elizabeth Rosner, author of Survivor Cafe

“Joan Frank is an exquisite chronicler of the cracked and confused desires, wants—needs—of the human heart. Her people are survivors who (to echo one beautiful line) wear their stories on their faces. The Outlook for Earthlings is a devastating, and redemptive, contribution to her already excellent body of work.”

 —  Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others

“I’m completely in love with The Outlook for Earthlings. It’s affected me so powerfully that I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone, or do anything but sit and reflect, and re-read passages here and there. Truly a beautiful, life-altering work of fiction.”

 —  Christina “Kit” Ward

“With great delicacy, Frank studies every detail of her protagonists’ lives. The lifelong friendship of Mel and Scarlet offers us a portrait of love whose intent is not to save or protect, but as an act of bearing witness.”

— Michael Sledge, author of The More I Owe You

“Rich in experience and delineation of contemporary relationships, vividly seen and described.”

— Joan London, author of The Golden Age

“With technicolor period details, intense reflections, and devastating acuity about women’s compromises in love, The Outlook for Earthlings is an elegant elegy.”

— Karen Rigby (Foreword Reviews, September / October 2020)