by Darcey Steinke ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1997
A grim and often persuasive view of modern suburbia as the outer circle of hell. Steinke (Suicide Blonde, 1992, etc.) clearly knows the terrain well. Her portrait of a northeastern suburb, in which the well-ordered housing developments and antiseptic malls can't quite suppress the disorder lurking close by, is precise and convincing. Adolescent Ginger, the protagonist, is uneasily caught between those worlds. Her father is a minister, a sign of order and continuity in the community. But Ginger, who has watched her mother die slowly of cancer, senses that life is willful and violent. Even the remnants of the natural world around her--garbage-strewn lots and contaminated streams--seem to suggest decay. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, horribly scarred in an accident, is obsessed with death. (When they strike and kill a deer on a dark road, he cuts off the head as a trophy, and carefully describes to her the stages of its decomposition.) The clearest sign of disorder, though, is the disappearance of a local girl, Sandy Patrick, who's been kidnapped from summer camp by a child molester. Invisible to authorities, he drives his nondescript van, with Sandy tied up inside, aimlessly from one town to the next, smuggling the terrified and abused child into one seedy motel room after another. Ginger, desperate to find some purpose to life, becomes obsessed with Sandy's disappearance, and begins trying to puzzle out who the child was. Several chapters follow Sandy's horrific existence with ""the troll,"" the deranged figure who's keeping her captive. Ginger's wayward investigation finally brings her to an unexpected, violent confrontation with him. Charting suburban despair and ennui is not new terrain, but Steinke brings to her portrait a powerful dark lyricism, a sharp eye for character, and a seemingly natural gift for metaphor. This is angry, painful, disturbing fiction, its impact only slightly lessened by the occasional rhapsodic outbursts of some of the characters.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997
Page Count: 240
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997
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