Alissa Nutting isn’t afraid of controversy. Her new novel, Made for Love, unleashes the same crude sexual turmoil that sizzled in her debut, Tampa, which grabbed national headlines with its scandalous plot about a woman who preys on teens.
Debuting July 4, Made for Love ($12.99, HarperCollins) is at once tragic, profound and rampageous as it follows the story of Hazel, who’s trying to escape from her billionaire inventor husband, Byron. From a helmet that conducts body scans while putting you in a cryogenic sleep to wedges with a LED display of your weight and caloric intake, Byron’s company, Gogol, doesn’t seem far from our current reality.
“I see technology as a huge metaphor for personal relationships in terms of the questions we need to be asking and the caution you should be taking early on,” says Nutting, a former John Carroll University professor, who now lives in Grinnell, Iowa, and is coming to town for a July 11 reading at Brews & Prose at Market Garden Brewery.
Nutting’s novel feels like a Fifty Shades of Grey parody, but technology replaces chains and whips as a means of dominance. Racy supporting characters — such as Hazel’s father who starts a marital relationship with a realistic sex doll and a con man whose sole desire is to develop a sexual interspecific relationship with a dolphin — also play an important role by dredging up the question of what it means to live and love freely in a fast-paced mad, mad world.
“ ‘How do we find what we need?’ is one of the biggest driving questions of the book,” says Nutting. “You can have this really specific idea of ‘This is what I want a relationship to be like, this is how I want to be loved,’ and keep trying for so long, indefinitely, sometimes.”