A Sapphic coming-of-age debut novel that's poetic in fits and starts and frank, but much too slow about getting its protagonist to face her big problem—i.e., exiting the closet. Fifteen-year-old Emily Stolle of White River, New Hampshire, first recognizes that girls turn her on when her big sister's best buddy, Mattie, starts meeting her for trysts on the terrace behind Emily's house. Alas, Dad (a widower who keeps his distance from his daughters) and straight-laced sister Sheila stumble onto the pair, resulting in a boarding school for Emily and a further breakup of the already fractured family. It's the Fifties, so Emily tries to bury herself in the trappings of adolescent sexuality—bras, hot petting sessions with beaus in the backseats of cars, etc. But in college her urges resurface and are played out with a friend who retreats from Emily once the two of them achieve consummation. Then it's off to beat New York, where Emily studies English at Columbia and defeatedly accepts the fact that she's a lesbian, frequenting downtown gay bars with names like Circle 3, The Naughty Angle, and Pandy's. It takes a few unsatisfactory relationships before she finds a woman she can love. Still, Emily can't bring herself to tell her friend Lillian—the only person from her past who means anything to her—that she's gay. But then Lillian admits she has terminal cancer, and that opens up Emily's floodgates at last. Certainly this will speak to gay audiences, but as documented here Emily's sexual journey is surprisingly unsurprising. It also lacks the more general emotional resonance of an erotic chronicle like David Guy's The Autobiography of My Body.
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