Playing Botticelli

Liza Nelson, Author
Liza Nelson, Author Putnam Publishing Group $23.95 (279p) ISBN 978-0-399-14601-5
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-0-425-17818-8
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The fertile depths of mother-daughter relationships are plumbed with sparkling humor and sharp-edged wisdom in Nelson's impressive debut. The year is 1986, and the wonderfully named Godiva Blue--n e Judy Blitch--a product of the '60s, is living with her proverbial love-child, 15-year-old Dylan, on the Gulf coast of Florida, where she has created an unconventional lifestyle as a funky single mom who supports her art and her child by working as a janitor at the local elementary school. Nelson captures the sense of time-warp felt by '60s activists who became alienated adults in what they saw as the spiritually moribund '80s. She also skillfully underscores the irony that mothers who came of age in a revolutionary generation still harbor the conventional desire to protect their children, no matter how rebellious they may have been in their own adolescence. Godiva's life is thus up-ended when Dylan discovers an FBI wanted poster in her mother's belongings, instantly recognizes the man as her father and, unbeknownst to Godiva, sets out by herself to look for him. Although Dylan comes off sounding more like a college student than a 15-year-old, her journey to find her father is filled with self-revelation and experiences that showcase the trusting innocence of youth as well as the particular vulnerabilities of a teenager alone in the world. Only when Godiva and Dylan are apart from one another do they come to understand and appreciate the depth of their attachment. Nelson takes them each on an emotional voyage that ultimately strengthens the bond between mother and daughter. Agent, Alice Martell. (Feb.)
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