cover image Spinsters


Pagan Kennedy. Serpent's Tail, $12.99 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-405-3

Kennedy's (Stripping and Other Stories) thoroughly delightful story of two road-tripping spinster sisters out to discover themselves will appeal to all but die-hard cynics. Frannie and Doris, both in their 30s, find their lives opening up in strange new ways once their father, to whom they sacrificed their young adulthoods, dies. On the road from Virginia to Arizona, Doris, always the popular, pretty one in high school, wants to party, while the more awkward narrator, Frannie, is still shy about men, having had her heart broken long ago. The story of Frannie's sexual awakening unfolds through her gently ironic narrative, which is filled with clever metaphors (her ``curls [were] stiff as meringue'') and is both innocent and self-aware (``that night I had a strange dream. It started off as any spinster's dream world, with worries about change lost and trains missed. But suddenly it shifted''). Effectively set against the backdrop of the late '60s--the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War, the '68 Democratic convention--these two charismatic characters change and evolve in ways that reflect the nation's metamorphosis. While some readers may object to Frannie's selfhood emerging through sexual feelings for a man, such criticism is ultimately shallow, as this creative, witty and subtly adventuresome character is able to treat her sexual coming-of-age as yet another wonderful discovery in an unpredictable, quirky world. (June)