A whip-smart psychological thriller from the author of Good as Gone (a New York Times Notable Book), in which a grad student becomes embroiled in a deadly rivalry that changes her into someone unrecognizable to her struggling family, her ambitious academic friends, and even herself.
by Amy Gentry
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 2021
Claire “Mac” Woods—a professor enjoying her newfound hotshot status at an academic conference—finally has the acceptance and admiration she has long craved. But at the conference’s hotel bar, Mac is surprised to run into a face from a past she’d rather forget: the moneyed, effortlessly perfect Gwendolyn Whitney, Mac’s foil, rival, and former best friend. When Gwen moved to town in high school, Claire—then known as Mac, a poor kid from a troubled family who had too much on her plate—saw what it meant to have. Money, sophistication, culture, the very blueprints to success. Mac had almost nothing, except the will to change. Change she did, habitually grinding herself to work as hard as straight-A Gwen, even eventually getting admitted into the same elite graduate program as Gwen. But then Mac and Gwen become entangled with the department’s power-couple professors and compete head-to-head for a life changing fellowship. The more twisted the track toward success becomes, the more Mac has to contort herself to stay one step ahead—which deception signals the point of no return? Jack-knifing between Mac’s world-expanding graduate days and the crucible of the hotel and its unexpected guests, Bad Habits follows Mac’s reckoning between her hardscrabble past and tenuous present. What, exactly, did Mac do to get what she has today? And what will she do to keep it? With taut, powerful prose, Amy Gentry asks how far we’ll go to get what we want—and whether we can ever truly leave the past behind.
Amy Gentry is a writer and critic with a doctorate in English from the University of Chicago. She has been a regular book reviewer for the Chicago Tribune since 2012, and her work has also appeared in Salon, Fusion, The Rumpus, Los Angeles Review of Books, Austin Chronicle, Gastronomica, and more.