Striking an offbeat, bawdy note from the outset, first- novelist D`Haene presents a young lesbian in L.A. whose lover has decamped and whose vagina has gone numb—but this is just the beginning of a complex, heartfelt story. As much a victim as the figure in Gogol's story ``The Noose,'' Maria is dismayed to learn one day that her vagina, a.k.a. Mona, is apparently no longer with her, so she takes steps to recover it, and the feelings that fled along with it. The absurdity deepens, though, as she mulls over possible reasons for her predicament: Her last live-in went east to get back with a refined, aging dyke ex- professor; her job as an editor of medical articles is stultifying; there's unfinished business with her family back in Michigan, which self-destructed when her oldest brother died in Vietnam; and, most importantly, all her male friends are either dying or dead of AIDS. Having known them before they grew sick, Maria has lived and laughed with them, and now must help the only one left, Peter, through the final, ravaging stages. A call from home, however, sets her on a different track: Her youngest brother, who turned angry overnight years before, is in the hospital after being severely beaten. Once there, Maria learns that he'd been abused by a priest while an altar boy, so she reaches out to him but is pushed away. Eventually, Maria realizes that her place is elsewhere, with someone else, so she returns to L.A. to start anew, offering what comfort she can to Peter in his last days. Innumerable orgasms remembered in wet, sucking detail bid this fair-to-be-welcomed erotica, but to label it such would be grossly unfair, since the sexual excess commingles with witty, vibrantly frank views of a gay world darkened by AIDS, yet not without hope.
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