A story of obsession, selfishness, lust and despair, Harrison's accomplished first novel deals with a dysfunctional family and the enduring psychic damage inflicted on a child. The narrator, Isabel, tells of growing up in L.A., the product of a brief teenage union between a vain, paranoid, destructive girl from an eccentric, wealthy, Jewish family, and a warped, brutal youth with a ``heritage of Catholic poverty.'' Emotionally abandoned by both parents (she is brought up by grandparents; her mother lives nearby but withholds intimacy; she doesn't see her father until her adolescence), Isabel accepts perverse ways of earning their favor. As a child, she is sexually abused by her mother; later, her father will repeatedly rape her. Equating pain with endearment, and sexual submissiveness and degradation with sanctification, Isabel pleads for a declaration of love from her mother as the latter dies of cancer, but is denied even that succor. Harrison relates this story in hypnotically intense prose, somewhat broadening the claustrophobic viewpoint of her protagonist by evoking what in outward respects is a typical California childhood in the 1960s. Impressively in control of her material, she will be heralded as a promising new writer. BOMC and QPB alternates. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991 Release date: 03/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.