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The Lady Waiting by Magdalena Zyzak
Literary fiction

The Lady Waiting

by Magdalena Zyzak

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Quick take

Feeling up for something a little taboo? Come join these rich, misbehaving Angelenos on their latest art theft scam.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LoveTriangle

    Love triangle

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SalaciousPeach

    Salacious

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

Synopsis

One bright Los Angeles day, a young Polish émigré named Viva is driving along the freeway when she’s flagged down by a dazzling, disheveled woman in green chiffon. The woman is Bobby Sleeper, a fellow Eastern European and an erstwhile art gallerist with a mysterious background and even more mysterious filmmaker husband. Within days the couple hire Viva as their assistant, then enlist her as an accomplice in an improbable scheme involving a long-lost Vermeer masterwork, a multi-million-dollar reward, and several shadowy ex-husbands.

As Bobby and her husband weave her ever more tightly into their web, Viva is swept up in an escapade that’s one part art heist, one part love triangle, and one part education of a felon. Entranced by their lifestyle, alarmed by their ramshackle scam, Viva realizes she’s out of her depth—and that only luck, cunning, and her own hustler’s instinct can save her from disaster. Careening from the canyons of LA to the canals of Venice, The Lady Waiting is a page-turning caper, a cavalcade of twenty-first-century sins—rapacious capitalism, shameless fraud, and atrocious behavior—and a showcase for three of the biggest and most unforgettable characters in recent fiction.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of sexual assault and miscarriage.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Lady Waiting.
The Lady Waiting

LOS ANGELES

1

A woman in green chiffon stood on an island on the 101. She held her arm aloft—her jewelry flashed—like someone proposing a toast. I don’t know why I stopped. I’d never picked up a hitchhiker before and never would again. She moved toward my slowing car, bizarrely fluttering her fingers. Here are some roles I would play for her in the coming months: her help, her thief, her lover, her lover’s lover.

“Well, hello. What time is it?” asked the evening-gowned hitchhiker as she flopped onto the seat. It was two p.m. “Just look at this.” She put her feet up on my dashboard—I didn’t mind, my car was old—and pointed at the brown stain on her stomach. “Is it coffee? Blood?”

Heat emanated from her, as if, after many hours in the sun, she now possessed the freeway’s qualities.

“What do you think?”

“Excuse me?”

“Blood or coffee?”

Was she drunk? Or injured? Yes. And maybe. But if so, not very badly. Cautiously, I pulled back into traffic.

“Take your pick. The bar’s wide open.” She opened the sun visor mirror and rubbed her eyes, smearing her already smeared mascara. Some of it got on her forehead. “Is today Ash Wednesday?”

“Umm, I think today is Monday, and not February.”

It was May 2018.

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Why I love it

There’s something devilishly enchanting about rich people doing bad things in beautiful settings. Maybe it’s because we are living our darkest fantasies vicariously through them, or maybe it’s just because we love to hate it. Whatever it is, I know that I adored every sultry page of The Lady Waiting.

Viva is a recent immigrant from Poland and our conduit into the lives of the rich and misbehaving. We meet her after she picks up a well-to-do hitchhiker in LA. Said hitchhiker is Bobby: a fellow Eastern European and art gallerist who quickly decides to take Viva under her wing. She hires Viva as a personal assistant to her and her filmmaker husband. Viva falls into life with Bobby and her husband easily, finding the line between professional and personal to be blurred. Soon, Viva’s days spent lounging by the pool and cooking meals for her employers turn into full-blown art heist scheming, falling ever deeper into the lustful and gluttonous lifestyle of her employers. Viva may start as a naive immigrant, but as she learns the ropes of this chaotic world, she learns to play the game better than anyone.

Magdalena Zyzak’s sophomore novel is full of lush descriptions and sharp writing. Viva and Bobby’s relationship, one of kinship and stark class differences, is especially compelling. The Lady Waiting is a book that will seduce you.

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