cover image Bee and Jacky

Bee and Jacky

Carolyn Coman / Author Boyds Mills Press $14.95 (104p) ISBN 97

Coman's (What Jamie Saw) latest is the literary equivalent of a Diane Arbus photograph: it presents a sharp, shocking picture of pathology, but leaves it to the audience to imagine the world beyond the frame. Bee is 13 and her brother, Jacky, is 17. Their parents--an ineffectual mother and a father damaged both physically and mentally from serving in Vietnam--go visit the father's parents over Labor Day weekend, and Jacky and Bee are left alone. Jacky rapes a complicit Bee, who suddenly recalls years of similar molestation, evolving from their imaginary reenactments of their father's wartime exploits. As the weekend progresses, Bee begins to dissociate. She hallucinates; subconsciously or otherwise, she makes an overture to Jacky; she wanders outside naked. Coman's prose is as trenchant as ever, but she doesn't give readers much to go on. Bee's descent occurs so rapidly and violently that the impact verges on the sensationalistic. In both scope and length, the work seems closer to a short story than a novel. Like the subjects of Arbus photos, Bee and Jacky remain Other, figures to gape at but whose experience creates a gulf between them and the reader. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)