Newcomer Redd blends unlikely ingredients—a strong and sassy Texan protagonist, satire, New Age hokum, and an exploration of the scars of childhood abuse—into a surprisingly assured debut. Lacy is a bread-baking redhead with a Ph.D. in comparative lit who teaches eighth grade in Houston. She's engaged to marry nice- guy Ellis but is preoccupied by her affair with Black Jesus, a famous blues musician. She's also attracted to Marcy, Black Jesus's brother, an aspiring rapper with gold teeth. Lacy tells all this to Eva, her turban-wearing therapist, while also grappling with her anger at her mother, who used to make her eat her dinner out of the dog's hair-ringed water bowl. Then, as a seven-year-old, she was sexually abused by overweight baby-sitter Donny. Eva sneaks Lacy into her childhood home for a recovery ceremony that involves burning a bundle of sage. Next, Lacy marries Ellis, then ducks out, on the pretext of a pilgrimage to Graceland, to join Black Jesus on tour. But the bluesman is arrested for beating up another woman, and Lacy returns home inspired to tell Ellis that their marriage is a sham. With her devoted husband on hold, Lacy gets down to some serious healing: She tells off her mother, confronts Black Jesus, and, with Eva in tow, heads back home for more ritual closure. Finally, Lacy tracks down and tells off Donny, finds satisfaction teaching illiterate adults, and learns to be by herself, presumably as a prelude to rejoining Ellis. The slow, subtle chronicle of this young woman's recovery is genuinely moving, despite Eva's silly excesses and a succession of kitschy backdrops that range from Elvis's grave through a cell in the county jail to the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building. First-novelist Redd paints modern-day Texas in all its gaudy glory, without trivializing her heroine's painful struggle and hard-won growth.
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