Books by Linda Chandler Munson

HEAT STORM by Linda Chandler Munson
Released: April 4, 1991

A first novel, set in 1970 on the north Florida coast, about a 15-year-old's harrowing coming-of-age when a priest uses her as his concubine. Most of the characters in this melodrama are alcoholic, demented, or perverse. The girl, Eunice, is a member of a household where the mother is a fundamentalist, and the father (often absent, away at sea) a well-meaning but strict Irish Catholic. Eunice's Catholic school is a stereotypical hell—the nuns pull her from class, the punishment bell rings, and Father Conor O'Brien beats her. And, meanwhile, she has her first period, then gets Lolita from the public library before O'Brien one day rapes her instead of administering corporal punishment. The point of view here alternates, then flashes back into the alcoholic and mentally ill priest's life: his father threw ``himself into the sacrament of marriage with a religious intensity,'' while his sister, often beaten, slept with the future priest before running away from home. O'Brien meets Eunice in the now-empty family home while she takes to reading medical encyclopedias and finds a regular guy, Bryan, for a boyfriend. O'Brien, intensely jealous, spies on the young lovers (``Eunice being handled by some pimply teenager, using everything he had taught her'') before turning the homestead into a shrine to her and planning some sort of weird ritual. By the climax, a shadowy figure—the Boardwalk Man—alerts Eunice's father, who collects her from seaside, where O'Brien piteously stalked her. In a brief prologue, we learn that O'Brien leaves the priesthood and returns in 1985 to apologize to Eunice, now married to ever-faithful Bryan. Sometimes laughably grotesque, but Munson's style is promising, and she still manages to dramatize successfully the haunted landscape of a battered adolescence. Read full book review >