Coman (What Jamie Saw, 1995, etc.) takes on another taboo in this hallucinatory tale of a profoundly injured family. Bee Cooney, 13, and her impossibly sullen, mutinous brother Jacky, 17, are alone in the house while their parents are away for the weekend. When Jacky comes into her room at night, he starts ""moving on top of her, rocking against her, back and then forward,"" and Bee suddenly remembers that he used to do the same years before, whenever they re-enacted the Vietnam ambush that left their father permanently impaired. With a series of visions and symbolic events, Coman creates a vivid sense of the pressure that suppressed guilt can exert: a bull appears in the Cooneys' backyard; Bee sees Jacky savaged by a bear, and after trying to comfort him (in a scene that may or may not be a sexual consummation) finds gruesome wounds on her own body; finally she's enveloped in flames that leave her whole and at peace. With clearer vision, Bee sees, and makes readers see too, that Jacky is no monster, just a soul tortured by fear--probably of the future, certainly of himself. It all seems fraught with meaning of an elusive sort; after Bee's epiphany, ""the world had changed even though everything in it looked the same, and she had no words for the things she had seen."" Readers may find the story's ambiguities creepy, and impossible to decipher, but they have an irreversible impact and, for good or bad, leave a lasting impression.
Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1998
Page Count: 101
Publisher: "Front Street (20 Battery Park Ave., #403, Asheville, NC 28801)"