Books by Lisa Vice

Released: June 1, 1998

In a sluggish second novel from Vice (Reckless Driver, 1995), a politically correct band of lonely hearts find love and meaning in a small town in coastal Maine. More a collection of events linked by time, place, and characters than a novel with distinctive protagonists, the story is told in a sequence of short segments, a device that not only makes it harder to keep track of the various characters and their current activities but vitiates what little dramatic tension there is. Among those residing in isolated Preacher's Lake, a decaying community with a boarded-up church and scanty employment, are Slim Riley, a gawky man with a heart of gold who takes care of the local dump; Janesta Curtis, who yearns for excitement and the bright lights; her mentally retarded daughter Crystal, who watches The Wizard of Oz over and over again; recently divorced Lizzy, a nurse, who yearns to have a child; Nelly, a lesbian farmer with troubling memories of her past; and Michael, Kaye, and their daughter Aran, who are building a house in the woods. The group of newcomers who set the plot in motion include Carol, still grieving over the death of her lover Annie; homeless and unemployed Rita, with her biracial child Rainey; and novice pastor Joe. As the months pass, Slim marries Janesta, who soon leaves him to take care of Crystal; Lizzy has a brief affair with the just separated Michael; and Nelly takes in Rita. Following an accident, Rita, also a lesbian, must struggle to run the farm in Nelly's absence. Meanwhile, she finds herself falling in love with Carol. Happy outcomes largely follow, many spurred by Pastor Joe, who opens up the old church, preaches love, tolerance, and forgiveness, and brings the community together. Overall, too nice a place, in too nice a book featuring too nice an ending. Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1995

Short, present-tense sections related in a young girl's voice create a simply stunning first novel. Vice (Creative Writing/Univ. of California Extension Program, Santa Cruz) takes as her narrator Lana Franklin—six at the beginning of this story and an adolescent by the time it ends—then populates an entire Indiana town through Lana's pronouncements, conjuring up characters like Neila Grimes, who shares a party-line with the Franklins and whose eavesdropping presence is often given away by her parakeet's loose lips. Lana's immediate family is particularly vivid: her sister, Abbie, five years Lana's senior and apparently mature; their volatile mother; and their increasingly crazy father. Incest has become a commonplace fictional subject, but it's rarely handled as delicately as it is here. Lana is never coy, just perfectly childlike: ``Daddy says okeydoke. He's done with me sitting on his lap, so he pushes that doohickey on the side of his chair and lets me go,'' she reports early on, then later, when she is hospitalized with an unnamed, itchy disease, she remarks that ``Mom comes to visit and she's all happy saying thanks to me she's got grounds to get rid of the old man for sure this time just wait and see.'' One of the major accomplishments here is Lana's gradual growth and the subtle changes in her voice and vocabulary. The short-burst chapters accumulate the weight of a family photo album. Abbie and Lana invent a game called ``The Old Man's Gone for Good,'' in which they come up with ever more creative ways of imagining their violent father's death. For her part, their mother is not faithful to her husband and careless about what she says in front of her daughters. Only a few unnecessary third-person chapters showing Lana's father's point of view mar the striking economy of language and plot. A streamlined vehicle for a writer with tremendous talent. Read full book review >