cover image Sleeping with Random Beasts

Sleeping with Random Beasts

Karin Goodwin, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1989-3

At 30, Eleanor May ""Bean"" Shank, the loquaciously cynical narrator of this meandering novel, decides to leave her alcoholic, cheating boyfriend and boring bank job behind. Tucked into her suitcase are a bottle of Scotch and a camera, her prerequisites for finding herself and becoming a photographer. Ahead lies a year-long cross-country odyssey during which she revisits the family and friends who shaped her dysfunctional past, taking on lovers as she finds them. Despite Goodwin's obvious intelligence, this fictional travelogue holds all the fascination of slides from someone's else's vacation, since Bean's unremittingly glib observations--that Connecticut teens are too well-groomed, that Richmond induces catatonia, that being gay in Kansas would be no day at the prairie--quickly lose their charm. Even worse are her constant references to her fluctuating weight. A case of arrested development, she whines instead of photographing, has sex in her mother's bed, stays stoned as often as possible. By the time one character advises, ""Have some backbone! You're not thirteen anymore,"" the reader has already been there, thought that. (Feb.)