The Red Shirt

Lois Leardi, Author Delphinium Books $19 (137p) ISBN 978-0-671-74259-1
Leardi's short, fiercely lyrical first novel wrests something beautiful from confusion, loss and anguish. Hannah, a school dropout, lives with her father, Jackson Spencer, a hard-drinking failed folksinger, in a ramshackle house by the oily Hudson in Peekskill, N.Y. Jackson is dying of cancer, and of accumulated grief over his estranged wife Patience, a prostitute who left the family on Hannah's first birthday to return to Manhattan's streets. Through flashbacks we learn how Patience (born Patienza) committed incest with her brother Octavio, a trauma that left her with a sense of doom and a desire to be dominated. Reclusive Hannah, torn between murderous rage and incestuous longing for her father, snaps mentally after Jackson's death. Hospitalized, she wears his smelly red shirt from his folksinging days, a fetish that shields her from reality. Untimately, she takes the first step toward recovery. If the writing sometimes slips into self-conscious artiness, this is nevertheless a haunting, unflinchingly honest story. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
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