cover image Inside Madeleine

Inside Madeleine

Paula Bomer. Soho, $16 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-61695-309-6

This collection of eight short stories and one novella from Brooklyn author Bomer (Nine Months) explores the sexual relationships of American society’s young outcasts, loners, and misfits, and blazes with a frank and raw honesty. In the title novella, Madeleine battles childhood obesity, making her the object of the other kids’ derision and ridicule. She finds few friends and becomes aggressively promiscuous (“slut of all sluts”) in high school before she marries the “nerd” Mark. However, marriage fails to bring her the happiness she craves, and when she becomes pregnant, she has an abortion. Between her spats with Mark, she develops a serious eating disorder, and as her problems escalate, she collapses. In the short story “Outsiders,” Ruthie Waters, a 14-year-old Midwesterner, rooms with Alicia Camp, the only black student at a rich-girls preparatory school, where getting stoned seems to be the main occupation. The bleak “Down the Alley” recounts the savage sexual initiation of seventh-grader Polly from South Bend, Ind. Perhaps the most accomplished of the short stories, “Reading to the Blind Girl,” follows Maggie Drescher at Boston University, as she volunteers to read the anthropology class textbook to “sight-impaired” Caroline (the two don’t exactly hit it off). (May)