Synopsis of Eminent Domain by Michelle Fernandez

In 2026 Albany, New York, some well-intentioned policy missteps have rendered marriage illegal, and romance insurance has taken its place. The romance insurance industry arose out of a series of disasters – ecological and social – which have resulted in a sloppy overhaul of American society. In 2018, a major hurricane irreparably destroys Miami, followed a few years later by a similar loss in New Orleans. Terrified into action on climate change, the American people elect a president in 2020 who vows to put an end to all the social issues which have kept the public distracted for decades, in an effort to prioritize this most dire of existential threats. Since the War on Drugs is still sucking up funding and energy and beefing up the prison population, controlled substances are made legal. Since the issue of immigration – legal or otherwise – has only grown more divisive with the influx of new climate refugees from around the world, the borders are open. And since contention over gay marriage has made hate crimes more common than haircuts, marriage is prohibited across the board.

Suddenly finding themselves without purpose, marriage counselors and divorce lawyers find a loophole in the ban on marriage by offering insurance policies on romantic relationships. Shiri Shapiro is a catastrophe adjuster who handles the toughest romance claims. Backed by an arsenal of pseudoscience, she arrives at the scene of a breakup and determines who hurts more and who gets the money. Her reputation is unparalleled until she takes Van, a younger and reluctant colleague, under her wing.

Shiri has made an art of stagnation since her life was derailed by the intolerable pain of cluster headaches years earlier. Now, she's cured and complacent. Van returns to his hometown of Albany – and the family business of insurance – after the disaster in New Orleans takes much of his family, leaving him alone to care for his ill mother. A physicist by training, he's naturally skeptical of the romance industry, and their common humor and histories of trauma lead him and Shiri to embark on a tenuous friendship. Van's reticence exposes some of Shiri's old wounds and latent ambivalence, and when a neurologically complicated customer attempts to defraud her, Shiri must reassess her profession and its place in the world. In a country governed by top-down decisions, she must determine whose jurisdiction to follow. In the post-industrial shell of the once-great capital of New York, Shiri must determine who has a right to whose heart.