cover image Wetlands


Charlotte Roche, , trans. from the German by Tim Mohr. . Grove, $17.95 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1892-9

Roche's explicit and provocative debut about an 18-year-old girl with a very active sex life was a bona fide sensation in Germany upon its publication earlier this year. Helen Memel, hospitalized for the treatment of an infected anal lesion, spends much of the novel in the hospital scheming on how to reunite her divorced parents. Between visits by hospital staff and her family, Helen shares her vast sexual experience, details how she rebels against her mother's uptightness by reveling in excretions, and maintains a high level of curiosity about her own body (and, of course, others'). Among the graphic sex scenes and tidbits on her avocado tree–growing hobby, Helen dishes gnarly stories about leaving a used tampon in an elevator, dribbling a trail of urine from the bathroom to her bed and eating scabs. Through Helen's mix of eroticism and profanity, Memel attacks conventional views on women's hygiene, sexuality and the definition of femininity. Though there isn't much plot—it feels largely like a buffet of filth and screwing—Helen's take on life is enough to keep the pages turning. (Apr.)