Frances Sherwood, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $23 (402p) ISBN 978-0-374-16673-1
Green, muses Zoe McLaren, the conflicted, engaging protagonist of Sherwood's beautifully articulated coming-of-age novel, ``is the color of growth, newness, innocence.'' It also stands for naivete and jealousy, says Greylen Cloud, who claims he's a Native American and becomes her husband on the night Zoe graduates from high school in Pacific Grove, Calif. Almost immediately, Zoe realizes that she has chosen Grey as an escape from her strict father and alcoholic mother and the highly hypocritical Mormon community in which they live. This is the 1950s, and Zoe yearns to be hip, a beatnik; in reality, she's a gawky bookworm whose every daring sexual adventure only further reveals her unworldliness. Grey and Zoe run away to San Francisco and then Big Sur, where they live in a tent, poor and dirty, and where Grey is constantly stoned on marijuana and peyote. Grey is a bully with a violent streak, blatantly unfaithful, a congenital liar; he abandons pregnant Zoe to run off with another woman. By the age of 19, Zoe has been arrested twice, is the mother of adorable Nadja, has worked as an exotic dancer and at other dead-end jobs. She is finally acquiring a sense of self when Grey returns--and brings tragedy. Sherwood, who painted a mesmerizing picture of 18th-century England in her first, highly praised novel, Vindication, is equally adept at evoking the California scene of the 1950s, from bomb alerts and uptight nuclear families to Beats, astrology and alternate lifestyles. Zoe's voice is tart, ironic and funny; always out of step in both the Mormon and the Beat cultures, she is a spirited survivor who undervalues her intelligence and potential until she finally survives the unthinkable. Though she is again portraying a young woman at odds with her times, Sherwood proves that she is no one-book, one-voice author; Zoe's story will strike a resonant chord with many a woman for whom the '50s were a pivotal time. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
Genre: Fiction
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