Breathing Underwater

Lu Vickers, Author
Lu Vickers, Author . Alyson $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-55583-964-2
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Coming out young is tough enough, but poor Lily has the misfortune of doing it in a setting as gothic and claustrophobic as anything Faulkner could have dreamed up: Chattahoochee, Fla., where the largest employer is a mental institution. Her family is classically dysfunctional: an emotionally distant father and a failed beauty queen mother who believes her children ruined her life. Lily's mother is especially toxic—she watches while Lily nearly drowns early in the book—and grows more demented as the narrative progresses. Lily's preteen undercurrent of awareness that she is not like the other girls prompts her to determine that she's in love with her friend Rae; the two practice kissing one another with Rae's caveat that one has to pretend to be a boy. Lily keeps her lesbian yearnings mostly under wraps, but an encounter with another young woman gets her in trouble with her off-the-rocker mother, and her father's attempts to keep the family together can only do so much. The plotting in this debut novel is by-the-numbers, but Vickers's prose is polished and the characters are sharply drawn. (Jan.)

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