Itâ€™s an odd combination to be had in a novel in the era of youth-driven paranormal romance and fantasy: A protagonist in her middle ages showing how life has worn her down, only to be brought back to life, so to speak, by a gift from a supernatural town. Catherine Lundoffâ€™s Silver Moon (Lethe Press) introduces the reader to a small, tight-knit town call Wolfâ€™s Point, where Becca Thornton, a newly-divorced woman, is starting her life over at the age of 50. (more…)
With Ralph Sassoneâ€™s first novel, the story attempts to show the delicate intricacies between friendship and romance between a gay man, Robbie, and a straight woman, Maize. Since it is understood that their relationship will not be sexual in nature, the narrative then shifts to show how â€śromanceâ€ť goes beyond physical intimacy.
Except it is not that simple.
This novel illustrates how the presentation of the narrative can color how the reader interprets the relationship between its main characters. Unfortunately for Sassone, the major criticism of this novel is the detached narration, leaving the reader to wonder how and why exactly the main characters are as close as the story claims them to be.
While I read, all I could find myself thinking is that this novel commits one of the biggest sins of creative writing: it tells, not shows. Because of the third person narrative, this detachment leads the reader to apathy about the characters and their actions. Also, there are so many large time skips that many of the pivotal moments in character development are told in awkwardly placed and short flashbacks.
Something as simple as a change in point of view (the first person instead of the third person) could eliminate the disengaging narration and turn it into an active narration. One way this could have been achieved would have been to make Robbie and Maize the narrator of each otherâ€™s parts. This would allow for their voices to be heard and give them the opportunity to show, not tell, the reader what Robbie and Maize see in each other without being force-fed the extraneous details in the narrative.
If there is one aspect where Sassone succeeds in his writing, it is in the descriptions of emotional yet abbreviated moments of intimate situations. With Maize, the loss of her virginity and her ambivalent narration of the act was one of the few moments when I felt engaged as a reader. Another instance of a beautifully written sense of vulnerability is between Robbie and his father, where their distance and subsequent reunion is as though the reader is looking at a photo frozen in time.
In those few pages, Sassone intertwines physical intimacy with the internal conflict of emotions masterfully. I just wish he could have applied that same level of detail into showing the depth of Maize and Robbieâ€™s relationship, besides simply stating that they are best friends.
As a result, the potential for a stimulating narrative between the blurring line between friendship and romance between people of opposite sex and opposite sexual orientation is present, but the execution leaves much to be desired.
by Ralph Sassone
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Hardcover, 9780374176976, 256pp
When one thinks of a â€ścoming-of-ageâ€ť story, it is often a span of short yearsâ€”perhaps from adolescence to the beginning of adulthoodâ€”that takes one major event that fuels the main charactersâ€™ development, for better or worse. It is compact and convenient, yet it often leads to generalized and watered down â€ślife storiesâ€ť in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.
Jukebox is not that story.
The permanency of tattoos forms the basis of the obstacle which Indelible (Bold Strokes Books) places between the main character, the all-American girl-next-door Angie Dressen, and her love interest, Luna Rinaldi, an untamed and leather-loving tattoo artist. (more…)
The journey of Marina, a 22-year-old woman teaching English in rural Japan, resembles sweeping waves that call back to her namesake, where she is pushed and pulled into the foreign waters that are Japan and its strict codes of social conduct. Marinaâ€™s job brings in a host of local Japanese characters, fellow teachers who seek out lessons from her as well as the students who study her as though she were an art project.
All the while, the center of Marinaâ€™s story is isolation, a feeling that Malena Watrous captures poignantly in her debut novel, If You Follow Me (Harper Perennial). With her confusion with the Japanese gomi (garbage) laws to the growing tensions with her girlfriend, Carolyn, and her budding friendship with her supervisor, Hiroshi Miyoshi, Marinaâ€™s immediate issues continues to feed her isolation along with her distress over her fatherâ€™s suicide. Despite all of this, Marina maintains her dry and biting style with commentary that is captivating and engaging. (more…)