cover image Dancer with Bruised Knees

Dancer with Bruised Knees

Chronicle Books, Lynne McFall. Chronicle Books, $18.95 (215pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0787-6

``It happened in my 40th year that I fell into a depression so deep that even the thought of sex could not raise me from it.'' So begins McFall's seductive novel about a severely dysfunctional family, a group that makes the eccentric clan in Robert Boswell's Crooked Hearts (to which McFall refers) seem like ordinary people. Sarah Blight is a photographer who has lost one eye in a barroom brawl over an ex-lover. Even while she mourns his loss, Sarah secretly hopes that she will reunite with her ex-husband Rich, though he has remarried. Meanwhile, Sarah's mother is caught in the grip of agoraphobia; her father devotes himself to drink; her sister takes refuge in rigidly positive thinking; her brother Morgan, who has sadistically mistreated Sarah throughout her life, is accused of murdering his ex-wife; and the Blights lose their 900-acre California homestead. But this tale is no conventional soap opera. McFall (The One True Story of the World ) is a remarkably talented writer who makes Sarah's voice-wry, cynical and bitter, yet capable of poignant tenderness-so mesmerizing that one comes under the spell of her bleak view of life. McFall writes with poetic intensity, her precisely honed prose powered by striking imagery. If at times Sarah is a little too quirky, needy and off-the-wall, and if her tolerance of Morgan's destructive rage goes on a bit too long, the depiction of her life, with its losses, disappointments, reckless errors and aching regrets, is unforgettable. (Oct.)