By Jenefer Shute
(Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780618539062, 257pp.)
Publication Date: August 2005
List Price: $23.00*
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Coursing with mordant wit and fierce intelligence, User ID is an elegant, utterly absorbing examination of the mutual obsession between an identity thief and her mark. Charlene Cummins, who sells cosmetics at an LA drugstore, is desperate for the better life she knows is out there for the taking. Vera de Sica, underachieving resident of Manhattan and (sort of) professor of English, is the woman whose identity she purloins. Nothing has been going right for Vera since she arrived in Los Angeles to deliver a speech at a conference: she has felt unappreciated (her presentation was sparsely attended), slightly dazed (there's too much light in the City of Angels), and disoriented (the freeways make her nervous). Now all she needs to do is return her rental car before heading back to New York. But when a heavily sweating man in a short-sleeved white shirt tells her to leave the car--and, as it happens, her personal effects--under a sign that reads Guest Parking,” Vera's true nightmare begins.
Based on more than three years of research into the fastest-growing white-collar crime in America, User ID is the incredibly compelling story of what happens when Vera's identity goes AWOL, co-opted by Charlene, the ambivalent girlfriend of the perspiring scam artist.
In this deft and mesmerizing character study of two women, who, on the face of it, could not lead more disparate lives (and yet share the same dissatisfaction with their lot), Jenefer Shute brilliantly explores the psychology of both victim and victimizer, as each woman develops an intense fantasy relationship with her other, imagined self. In alternating chapters that read like a thriller, Shute draws the reader into the bizarre and unsettling world where identities are multiple and mutable, and, ultimately, for sale. Unexpected, smart, and troubling, User ID is both a terrific read and a trenchant look at the philosophical implications of our networked world.
novels: Life-Size, Sex Crimes, and Free Fall. User I.D., her latest novel, is
based on over three years of research on identity theft, the fastest-growing
white-collar crime in America. Her journalism has appeared in Salon,
Harper's Magazine, Tikkun, Allure, and the Boston Globe. She teaches writing and literature at Hunter College in New York City. Shute lives in Ancramdale, New York.