A blast of a trip through revenge and grief

Roxy’s husband is killed in a car crash, where his body is found naked along with that of his lover. At twenty-seven, Roxy is left behind with their daughter, house, and car, his personal assistant, and the babysitter, all mixed up with the shame of this inglorious end to her marriage. As her parents try to take care of her, Roxy tries to burst free from the shackles of her grief. An impromptu all-female road trip ensues, filled with wry observations about loss, parental responsibility, and the expiry date of love. Through masterful dialogues and in her trademark lucid style, Gerritsen introduces the reader to a woman fighting for relief. Roxy is a character who both shocks and endears.

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Publication date

March 4, 2020




Esther Gerritsen

Esther Gerritsen (1972) is a Dutch novelist, columnist, and playwright. She made her literary debut in 2000. She is one of the most… Read more

Book Club Questions

  1. How would you characterize Roxy?
  2. Do you have sympathy for Roxy? (Why, why not?)
  3. When Arthur was buried, Roxy immediately had sex with Marcel, the funeral director. After this she goes on to sleep with several other men. Why would Roxy be so eagerly looking for possible (bed) partners?
  4. Roxy seems to struggle with the contradictions between her “simple” rural background and the life of wealth she has built up with Arthur. In which of the two cultures does she feel more at home, according to you? Where in the text can you find evidence of this?
  5. Did you find one of the two cultures more personally appealing?
  6. What contradictions are there between Liza and Jane on the one hand and Roxy on the other? How do these contradictions come to the fore and what do they mean?
  7. What role do Liza and Jane play in relation to Roxy?
  8. Is Roxy looking for an enemy? And if so, why does she do this? If not, what is she looking for?
  9. The lyrics “Day-o, day-ay-ay-o. Daylight come and he wan’ go home” (from “Banana Boat Song” by Harry Belafonte) occur more than once in the book. What significance could this fragment of music have?
  10. On the one hand Roxy feels safe with her daughter, Louise, and wants to be with her as much as possible, on the other hand she frequently tries to escape from her and to transfer her to Liza. Why is she doing this?
  11. Is Roxy exceptionally conflicted, or is she very recognizably and universally human in that respect? Could you personally identify with those contradictory desires?
  12. Does Roxy miss Arthur? If so/if not, how is this shown, and what does this show about Roxy?
  13. The novel starts with a motto by Sophocles: “Dost thou behold / How I, stout heart and bold, / I, the undaunted once in open battle, / Lay violent hands on unsuspecting cattle? / Alas for scorn! How am I put to shame!” In what ways does Roxy appear like Ajax—aside from the fact that they both beat up defenseless cattle? Are there similarities between the Roxy of the novel and the story of Ajax?
  14. What do you think is the meaning of what Roxy does to the sheep?
  15. Was the setting one that felt familiar or relatable to you? Why or why not?
  16. The book ends with Roxy’s decision not to ride off with her father, but to return to Louise. Why is she making this decision?


“A diverting absurdist parable…Questionable parenting and bizarre behavior are hallmarks of Gerritsen’s previous novel, too, but Roxy’s story is starker and more manic, as her road trip of self-discovery spirals down into ever darker, more violent behavior before emerging into a degree of realization.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Esther Gerritsen’s characters have their own, extremely unique way of viewing the world.” —Vogue

“Overall, Roxy is a splendid little book about a fascinating yet troubling protagonist, with Gerritsen’s stripped-back language providing a very readable and direct narrative.” —European Literature Network

On Craving:

“I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novel that captures the emotional labor of people-pleasing language quite so well. It’s a funny, angry, feminist novel. It’s droll and horrific and incredibly moving. Craving ends up offering some deep insights into the ways women process emotions—or fail to process them—during difficult times.” —New York Times

“A raw, unsettling book.” —Daily Mail

“The lives of others, in all their peculiarity, are given sympathetic scrutiny in this diverting European oddity, in cool prose and naturalistic dialogue.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Cool, sparse, and delicious, Esther Gerritsen’s Craving hits all the right notes. This is an author who is unafraid of both complex characters and complex emotion (Thank God!)” —ALICE SEBOLD, author of The Lovely Bones