Touch by Courtney Maum


Courtney Maum

Celebrated novelist Courtney Maum’s new book is a moving investigation into what it means to be an individual in a globalized world.

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From the author of the acclaimed I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, a satirical and moving novel in the spirit of Maria Semple and Jess Walter about a New York City trend forecaster who finds herself wanting to overturn her own predictions, move away from technology, and reclaim her heart.
Sloane Jacobsen is one of the world's most powerful trend forecasters (she was the foreseer of “the swipe”), and global fashion, lifestyle, and tech companies pay to hear her opinions about the future. Her recent forecasts on the family are unwavering: the world is over-populated, and with unemployment, college costs, and food prices all on the rise, having children is an extravagant indulgence.
So it’s no surprise when the tech giant Mammoth hires Sloane to lead their groundbreaking annual conference, celebrating the voluntarily childless. But not far into her contract, Sloane begins to sense the undeniable signs of a movement against electronics that will see people embracing compassion, empathy, and “in-personism” again. She’s struggling with the fact that her predictions are hopelessly out of sync with her employer's mission and that her closest personal relationship is with her self-driving car when her partner, the French “neo-sensualist” Roman Bellard, reveals that he is about to publish an op-ed on the death of penetrative sex—a post-sexual treatise that instantly goes viral. Despite the risks to her professional reputation, Sloane is nevertheless convinced that her instincts are the right ones, and goes on a quest to defend real life human interaction, while finally allowing in the love and connectedness she's long been denying herself.
A poignant and amusing call to arms that showcases her signature biting wit and keen eye, celebrated novelist Courtney Maum’s new book is a moving investigation into what it means to be an individual in a globalized world.

Advance Galley Reviews

I was excited by the premise of this book, but didn't feel the execution lived up to the promise. I strongly disliked Daxter and Roman was just too weird. It was easy to tell from the beginning what would happen to Sloane and the ending was just too pat. I thought the best character in the book was Anastasia, the driverless car. I tried to read it as satire, but most of the book didn't work for me.

Those of you who scorn our increasing reliance on digital electronics, this is the book for you. Courtney Maum skewers those who constantly "look down" and the sense of disassociation they suffer, and she does it in ways that will make you think and occasionally laugh. Sloane Jacobsen has made a living by relying on intuition, something that can't be reduced to an app. She is a "trend forecaster," which is not the same as a "trend analyst" or a "trend pioneer." Sloane doesn't start trends or perpetuate them, but she does predict them. Her best-known forecast? Swiping those handheld devices. For the past decade, Sloane has lived in Paris, a place she ran to for a job shortly after the unexpected death of her father. Her mother and sister, left behind to deal with their grief without her, remain at a distance, both by choice and by necessity. One of the funnier lines in the book comes from Sloane's young niece, who asks if Sloane is an alien because Sloane's sister says she lives on another planet. Sloane's boyfriend, Roman, is more of a trendsetter. He's lately into Zentai suits (Google them because I cannot do justice to these things), and he believes that society is moving toward a Zentai existence, one in which we need no touching or interpersonal interactions. Roman, you see, believes that we are trending toward a cybersex, not the actual penetrative variety. Maum spends much of this book debating the ideas over which Sloane ruminates. Is our increasing reliance on digital devices causing a necessary loneliness? If so, how do we combat that? Sloane has returned to New York to work for a company that wants to reduce procreation. Is this where we are headed? Are babies becoming the new analog? Occasionally these discussions feel tedious and repetitive, but Maum will surprise you: some of the more interesting and perceptive analyses occur between Sloane and Anastasia, the voice of her driverless car. Using body temperature and other calculable responses, Anastasia can tell when Sloane is suffering. She's even able to offer a cup of coffee or hot tea. But what she can't provide is meaningful contact: yes, you can touch her sets and dashboard, but you can't make eye contact. You can't roll your eyes at her or wink. And the touching is not a mutual exchange, which is what Sloane needs. She bemoans Roman's inability to touch her when he's in his Zentai suit, but she doesn't get anything beyond that with Anastasia. When someone does touch her, her body reacts instantly, letting her know just how dearly she needs this. I became a fan of Courtney Maum's when I read I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, the story of a husband, a wife, and infidelity. Touch also discusses infidelity, but not in a sense of marital cheating. Rather, it's the loss that occurs when the person you love loves someTHING else. How do you react when your lover would rather touch a handheld electronic device than you? I'm curious to know what you think of this book, so please hit up the comments and tell me. *** Schedule for publication on the blog on May 28:

A Penguin First to Read ARC e-book in exchange for an honest review. This book was initially hard to get into. A single almost 40 year old woman, Sloane, is complaining that her life is getting too techy and she is literally losing touch with reality and people around her. Not only touch in the figurative sense of knowing the man that she has dated the last 10 years but also the physical sense of people touching her. Sloane is known as the anti-parent and thinks that breeding is selfish. As life progresses though and her boyfriend prefers a stimulated reality of high tech masturbation over actually touching her skin she begins to question her life choices. Coming home to NY after leaving abroad in Paris Sloane is put on a six month project that is going to cater to people that choose to not breed. As things come up she realizes how things like a simple pat on the hand sparks a need in her. Cue the drama of a chosen childless persons ticking biological clock. Sloane, the anti-mother now wants kids. A bit generic sub plot line that has a deeper emotional meaning. As a mother of two, I am constantly being climbed on and lovingly suffocated by my children. As a late 20 year old I am an avid user of the Internet and some social media platforms. I cannot fully relate to the character Sloane but there are hints of truth in the technology and social gap that I do see on an everyday basis and some of my concerns are blown into wild realism in this story. Though it was hard to get into, by page 130 you could say I was officially hooked. I had some issues with it but I was entertained and mortified and horrified as I read on.

What a lovely read. I felt extremely connected to the characters, probably partly because I am a millennial with a tech-obsessed partner. I couldn't put the book down. I enjoyed Touch more than Maum's debut novel. I am already recommending it to all of my friends.

This was a great, quick read. I thought the premise was original and clever. It isn't a perfect book; for example the characters were just shy of caricatures, but I found it very entertaining.

Touch is an insightful look at how people can be very fickle in what they want, and in how people can overdo things to the point that they become ridiculous. A trend forecaster living a jetsetting life in Paris with her boyfriend comes back to NYC for a job, but with it comes proximity to the family she had been avoiding since her father died in a car accident. The project, for a conglomerate involved in electronics, furniture, apps, and numerous other industries (aptly named Mammoth), and its charismatic CEO want her to see what people's future needs might be, especially trying to target the market of people who do not have children. Somewhat at odds with her future-leaning profession, Sloane is actually a bit of a Luddite -- although she does enjoy the AI-powered, empathetic self-driving car she gets for her job, she sees people returning to tactile interaction with others; and the pull of her mother and her sister's family only serve to heighten that. In stark contrast, her partner Roman has gone completely anti-touch -- going around in a lycra bodysuit and proclaiming the end of touching for fully virtual interactions. Of course, Mammoth hires him as well to set them in competition. Sloane's perspective and experiences as she goes on her journey are entertaining and well-written, though it might have been more interesting to give Roman's perspective the same treatment and have an actual debate. Either way, these are great observations about human behavior and the need to balance virtual and IRL interaction. I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, I DNFed this book, but that's just because I realized I can't enjoy myself reading on an e-reader. The story is surprisingly original and I enjoyed the several first chapters! If I had had a physical ARC, I would've finished it by now. The writing is beautiful in an exclusive way which I can't describe well. I'm looking forward in purchasing and reading Courtney Maum's books in the future!

I actually really enjoyed this book. I think it fits with my generation. I can see both sides of kids vs. no kids. But the thought of no touch hit home the most. Will definitely recommend this book.

A really lovely, touching and poignant book with a moving story,amazing and lovely characters. I loved it and would recommend it to everyone. The book was awesome

I was disappointed by the end of this book. The point of the story should have just been that society must return to real human interaction and stop allowing technology to consume our lives. But Sloane ends up proving Roman right. She's a woman who's only true instinct is to have children. Nothing more. She starts to feel as the story moves along as if she can't clearly see what the trends of the future will be. This progressive cloudiness was such a detrimental technique because Sloane no longer appear as a strong, forward-thinking woman who doesn't need children or a man to feel fulfilled. And in the end she becomes like every other typical woman who thinks having a child will bring them ultimate fulfillment. It should have just ended with her showing the world they need more human interaction.

I'm kinda torn on this book. I wasn't really sure what to rate it. It has two opposing points of view expressed by the protagonist Sloane who is a trends forecaster and thinks that everyone is ready to be done with technology and go back to more human contact. On the other side her long-term BF (who hasn't touched her in 18 months) thinks the world is done with penetrative recreational activities. I think the battle of this these two ideas is what moves the book along. The downside to me is that by the end of the book, Sloane, who has moved forward in so many ways decides that she wants children after all which I think takes away from the strong, childless by choice, character that she portrays for much of the book. I have children myself so I'm not anti-children, but I think we need more strong female characters that don't feel like they have to be everything in every way to be a woman.

Sadly, I didn't enjoy Touch as much as Maum's debut (I thought the settings were less vivid, and the characters a bit too absurd to be believable), but I nonetheless enjoyed it very much. It was clever and funny, and I think it will be a perfect summer read for those looking for a novel to accompany them on their various holidays.

I had trouble getting into this book. The theme is fantastic in exploring technology and its pitfalls. I had a hard time with the story itself. In some parts the theme overtook the store and it became difficult to stay with the story.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book- the description left me unsure what kind of story I was going to read. And while I felt deeply about the idea that we all need more human contact and less digital distraction I don’t think anyone’s going to intentionally ditch their smart phones and grab the text only models. I don't fully agree with all of the suppositions made about technology, but I still enjoyed it and appreciated that fact that it raised some questions. Touch was a highly readable, fairly intelligent story with empathetic characters and a well-paced plot. The only weird part is the time it takes place in— at points I thought the story took place in the present, and at others a sort of alternate present (self driving cars with uncanny AI seems possible but we’re not quite there yet). Touch was, ultimately, a good book- the kind of story you think about long after you’ve finished the last world.

This was an entertaining book - and I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek condemnation of technology. I happen to be the same age as Sloane, the trend forecaster protagonist, and I do not own a smart phone, (neither does my husband). So, I can relate to Sloane's cynical views towards technology alienating us, and frankly witness it daily. I really enjoyed the characterizations of Sloane and Roman. Roman was my favorite character. Somebody who is completely out of touch with, well, human touch itself. Witnessing the way people interact with their phones, Roman's behavior was not too far-fetched. I also loved how Sloane's effort to keep phones out of the conference rooms was met with incredulous resistance by the CEO. As someone who does not use a smart phone, I see people's ridiculous dependence on their phones all the time. On the other hand, I could not get past the preachy global warming, political mayhem talk. I really did not want to be lectured to. Is this a book about social activism or a rebellion against social media? I can definitely get behind the latter! But every time Sloane mentioned global warming, terrorism, or ice caps melting, I had a hard time believing her credibility. Stick to what you know, Sloane, otherwise you sound just like those girls in the elevator who kept sharing an image of the emaciated polar bear.

This book was extremely thought provoking. With so much technology in the world, there were some interesting parallels. As a society, we are becoming poor communicators and there needs to be more of an effort to get back to our roots. I liked the concept of this novel and thought that it was a great read for our society at this point in time.


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