cover image The Pillow Friend

The Pillow Friend

Lisa Tuttle. White Wolf Games Studio, $19.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56504-938-3

It's no wonder the publisher, which specializes in gaming books that have a large adolescent readership, has printed a warning on the galley of Tuttle's new novel: ""Because of the mature nature of themes presented within, reader discretion is advised."" Tuttle, who displayed her grasp of the macabre in such earlier novels as Familiar Spirit and Gabriel, puts a new, sexually explicit and extremely dark spin on fantasy regarding desire in this apparently semi-autobiographical ode to the power of a writer's imagination. Agnes Grey, a young girl growing up in country-club, middle-class Houston of the early 1960s, escapes a profound loneliness caused by her mother's depression and her father's indifference by journeying into wishful states and imagined realms. Her mother's twin, Aunt Marjorie, ""wildly unpredictable"" and ""deeply mysterious in her comings and goings,"" teaches Agnes about the transformative power of wishes: ""It's very easy to be happy. You can have whatever you wish for--as long as you take the consequences."" The consequences for Agnes include a pint-sized, old-fashioned gentleman doll--a ""pillow friend"" who becomes much more; Snowy, the white stallion with whom she achieves her ""womanhood""; and a high-school crush who becomes a passionate lover under the veil of night. Later, the poet of Agnes's dreams, an Englishman about whom she's published a story, whisks her off to England to serve as his devoted muse and wife. But her beloved pillow friend reinvades her life; when Agnes realizes she's being manipulated by him, she consumes him barbarically. He manages to impregnate her in the process, however, and the birthing scene proves a chilling climax to Tuttle's grim yet evocative tale. (Sept.)