Books by Dinitia Smith

THE HONEYMOON by Dinitia Smith
Released: May 3, 2016

"An intelligent, delicate, but not quite rounded portrait of genius."
An appealing fictionalized biography of the revered British novelist George Eliot imagines the inner impulses and passions hidden under a cloak of 19th-century propriety. Read full book review >
THE ILLUSIONIST by Dinitia Smith
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

The unfathomable mysteries of sexual identity and charisma permeate this dark, meditative tale of a transsexual's murder in upstate New York, by the author of The Hard Rain (1980) and Remember This (1989)—inspired by an actual incident in Nebraska. It's a chilly October night in quiet Sparta, New York, when Chrissie, a local community-college student, first spots Dean Lily performing magic tricks at the local bar. Though the regulars can't help but gather around the magician's table, there's something about this slight, bright-eyed stranger that makes them vaguely uncomfortable. As Chrissie learns once Dean, who's been living in his truck, gratefully moves into her downtown apartment, Dean Lily is really Lily Dean—a man born in a woman's body about 20 years ago in another small town near the Canadian border. Surprisingly, Chrissie doesn't care much that Dean is physically female. For reasons this plain, boyfriendless part-time nursing-home employee can't begin to fathom, she's too strongly attracted to Dean's emotional intensity, butterfly-like elusiveness, and essential strangeness to judge him according to the usual standards. Instead, she watches uneasily as he seduces her boss at the nursing home—a gawky single mother just barely surviving in a shack outside town- -and then mischievously helps him betray his lover by setting up a meeting with the famously unattainable local beauty queen. With each encounter, Dean touches on sexual needs and primal passions previously buried deep beneath the surface of his partners' monotonous daily life—so effectively, in fact, that little time passes before one man's jealous rage and sexual terror explode to destroy Dean and devastate the people who claim to love him most. Smith's harsh but deadly accurate evocation of late-20th- century rural life almost upstages the violent drama in the foreground. Still, both prove memorable in this haunting exploration of a senseless and brutal murder. Read full book review >

Smith's second novel (Hard Rain, 1980): a coming-of-age chronicle about a young writer who investigates skeletons in her family's closet. The book's early sections in England, told from a child's point of view, are fresh and original, piquant with insight, while the rest is workmanlike. Laura, a writer living in a New York loft, remembers eavesdropping on her diplomat father (Hal) and her mother. The point of view effectively renders a child's awkwardness and confusion as a series of tragedies strikes the family: first marital tension and a pregnancy that results in the mother's death during childbirth, then Hal's marriage to lover Barbara, followed by a messy divorce and custody battle for Simon (Barbara's child). Laura and Simon develop their own secret "egg language," but Simon's father wins the custody battle, and Simon disappears from Laura's life. The rest of the book details Laura's struggle to reclaim her past: she finds out her father never returned to the hospital to be at her mother's deathbed and that his affair with Barbara began long before her mother's death. Then Laura has a short-lived affair with a family man (which successfully dramatizes the psychology of "the other woman") and learns that Simon is a criminal; eventually he appears at her door and tells her his whole sad story (manslaughter, not his fault). Hal comes to her apartment (without Barbara), meets Simon but fights with Laura, whereupon Hal leaves and Laura sleeps with her stepbrother, whereupon Simon leaves and Laura flies to England to visit Simon's father, and then her old family doctor, who reveals that her mother wanted to die. Having laid old bones to rest, Laura is content and wishes everyone well—including her former lover and his boy. A solid effort, then, notable for its childhood sections and otherwise unexceptional but well-crafted enough to get the job done. Read full book review >