The Collapsible World

Anne N. Marino, Author
Anne N. Marino, Author W. W. Norton & Company $22.95 (171p) ISBN 978-0-393-04909-1
Paperback - 174 pages - 978-0-393-34197-3
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Marino's taut, likable debut follows its edgy postadolescent narrator and her San Francisco family through some uncommonly trying days. Lillie works in the map store of her elderly friend Thomas Finch; isolated and uneasy, she finds her job comforting, but wonders when her real life's going to begin. Lillie's just started sleeping with Rick, a cop: can she stay with him, and does she want to? Her academically gifted sister, Nina, works as a stripper. Their anesthesiologist father, Larry, has long been hooked on powerful prescription drugs; Midge, their mother, is his enabler. The novel begins when she walks out on Larry, leaving the daughters to care for their junkie father. As the narrative unfolds, Lillie and those around her try to manage her sometimes dangerous net of troubles. What will the sisters do about Larry, and how will either take control of her life? Though the specifics--the substance abuse and the eventual violence--seem quite current, Marino's symbolism, her focus on Lillie and her denouement empower the novel as a traditional, and satisfying, coming-of-age tale. Marino uses her San Francisco setting subtly, depicting (along with cute landmarks) unhip bars, hills and back streets that visitors don't often see. Better yet, she writes a crisp yet smoky prose, and Lillie's present-tense narrative voice carries the clarity and momentum she seeks from the rest of her life. Marino scores less well with her supporting characters: Larry is a generic addict and Rick--except for one impressive scene at a gun club--is a tough-but-warmhearted cop. Still, many readers will finish this well-made, if unambitious, novel hoping for more of Marino, and more of her protagonist. (Sept.)
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