cover image GABRIEL'S EYE


C. W. Smith, GABRIEL'S EYE C.W. Smith<. , $16 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-9701525-1-0

Smith (Understanding Women; Uncle Dad) pulls the reader into a world of sexual longing and psychological introspection in this plainspoken but complex tale. The plot will catch the attention of anyone captivated by current headlines: Jeff, a 17-year-old boy, and Susan, his beautiful 28-year-old art teacher, develop a relationship that turns romantic and ends in tragedy. Jeff is a new student at the high school in Dallas where Susan teaches. When he slides shyly into a meeting of her after-school art club, she takes note: his awkwardness doesn't seem to match his preppy good looks. A shared ride home is the first in a series of increasingly flirtatious encounters. Susan offers to give Jeff private art lessons; she invites all her art students to a party at her apartment. Insecurity and her dissatisfaction with her live-in lover, Curt, push Susan into an ill-advised intimacy with Jeff; stumbling down the slippery slope of infatuation, she finds herself going much further than she ever intended. Just as Susan is ruing her rash behavior, a prank masterminded by one of Jeff's friends blows the lovers' cover and forces a desperate Jeff to act. Smith deserves kudos for her unflinchingly honest character portraits: Jeff is an inarticulate teenager, sensitive to peer pressure and obsessed with sex; Susan is a frustrated, self-absorbed woman. To her credit, Smith never exploits the sensationalism of Jeff and Susan's predicament, but the protagonists' unremitting unpleasantness deflects sympathy. Then, too, Smith's commitment to psychological accuracy turns detail to minutiae and casts a pall over the case study–like tale. (Mar.)