cover image Tomasso and the Blind Photographer

Tomasso and the Blind Photographer

Gesualdo Bufalino. Random House (UK), $17.99 (184pp) ISBN 978-1-86046-568-0

Brutal yet beautiful, this unflinching debut novel delves deep into the darkest realms of terror and abuse. At the age of 16, Beth (also known, variously, as Becca, Becker, Clarisse and Terri) is a runaway starving on the streets of Manhattan. Lured into bondage by ber-pimp Ben, she is submitted to months of ritual abuse. By the time Ben is finished with her, she is his willing slave, a player in the s&m skits he orchestrates for wealthy clients. Living with Ben's other victims for 10 years in a bizarre kind of family, Becca grows to love another girl, Violet. But one night, in Ben's fearsome basement den, Violet's head is sliced almost off her neck. When Becca wakes up in the hospital the next day, her stomach is stitched up and she believes she has had an appendectomy. The past has always been a painful blur, but now she remembers practically nothing. Another hospital patient, clueless, wealthy Jeremy, proposes to her, and she marries him. For five years, she lives an anesthetized, upper-middle-class life; encouraged by Jeremy, she writes a novel based on her vague memories of her rocky childhood in a two-room shack on the banks of a river in the South. The book acquires a cult following, and the attendant publicity panics Becca into calling Ben for help. Sucked once more into a horrific spiral of violence and abuse, Becca fakes suicide. Setting off on a cross-country odyssey with an Uzi and a change of clothes, she winds up in San Francisco, where she makes some real friends and falls in love, but the past keeps catching up with her--in her waking dreams and in a final, horrific encounter. Fierce and incredibly resilient, Becca is a remarkable character, and Bell's impressionistic, fragmented narration allows her story to unfold as Becca herself recalls it. This disturbing, impressive novel introduces an urgent and powerful new voice. (July)