Lolita Files, Author . Simon & Schuster $23 (320p) ISBN 978-0-684-84143-4

From the author of Scenes from a Sistah comes this saga of a family cast about by the winds of fate and torn apart by love and fear. Entwining the stories of two generations of the Boten clan of Downtown, Tenn., Files has created a lurid play of murder, incest, rape and deceit worthy of the Shakespearean names of her characters. She references Hamlet, but this spectacle might find a better comparison in Titus Andronicus. Ophelia Boten is the product of an incestuous union between her mother, Grace, and her latently homosexual uncle, Walter. Unaware of her own origins or the tragedies of her family's past, Ophelia is soon pregnant with a love child of her own, courtesy of her vicious older brother, Lay (short for Laertes). Lay is sent off to Detroit, where he becomes a heroin dealer, and their infant son Hamlet perishes in a fire that may or may not have been started deliberately by Sukie, Walter's voodoo witch of a wife. Unsurprisingly, the family unravels even further, and the narrative eventually degenerates into more murders, fires, addictions, rapes and just about everything else under the sun. Files's writing is serviceable, but fails to lift this soap opera up to a truly moving level, leaving the flat characters to carry out the Herculean task of transforming the overblown drama into something real and poignant. Throughout it all, Files harps on the power of love, both driving the characters further into self-destruction and bringing some eventual redemption—but the plot is too unwieldy and the brushstrokes too broad for this tragedy to escape predictability and garishness. Agent, Warren Frazier of John Hawkins Assoc.; 7-city author tour. (Aug. 14)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7432-2591-5
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-7432-1848-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 369 pages - 978-0-7432-7879-9
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