Amy Gentry on Toxic Workplaces, How to Construct the Perfect Plot Twist, and Why Grad School is the Perfect Place to Become a Villain
Amy Gentry’s engrossing Bad Habits digs into the dark recesses of academia, pulling apart the long lasting aftershocks of a toxic relationship among a dynamic professor and the two star students in her graduate program. When we first meet Mac, she’s living a seemingly glamorous life in academia, headlining conferences and on the verge of interviewing for her dream job. Yet she’s brought up short when she unexpectedly runs into her former best friend Gwen at a hotel bar. The two haven’t spoken since Gwen left their graduate program nearly a decade earlier, and the reunion stirs up dark memories of the past that Mac has long since suppressed. As high school students, they formed an intense bond over their shared appreciation of beauty and art, despite coming from wildly different backgrounds. Mac’s childhood was marked by her mother’s struggles with addiction and financial issues, while Gwen came from a world of near unimaginable wealth. Later as doctoral students in an elite graduate program, they fell under the thrall of a brilliant professor, Bethany, whose iron-like grip on her students’ lives shapes the ultimate fates of both Gwen and Mac. With spiky humor and exquisite plotting, Gentry crafts a twisty tale that explores the surprising and brutal ways a person’s past may bump against their present life.