TAMPA by Alissa Nutting


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A middle school teacher in Tampa, Fla., goes to outrageous lengths to hide her voracious sexual appetite for adolescent boys.

Nutting certainly brought dark overtones to her story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls (2010), but even that auspicious debut pales next to the unclean psyche at the heart of her first novel. In a story that makes Nicholson Baker’s work look hygienic by comparison, Nutting unleashes a devious temptress whose acts of deception are as all-consuming as her incessant masturbatory frenzy. Our narrator, Celeste Price, looks absolutely harmless on the surface. She’s married to a rich suburban police officer, drives a hot car, and her looks could cause car wrecks. Unfortunately for her, Celeste is also deeply, unfixably broken. She says that the loss of her virginity at age 14 imprinted on her, and she has been working unceasingly as a student teacher to get to the mother lode: a gig as a full-time teacher of eighth-grade boys. In her first year, she obsesses over her chosen target, young Jack Patrick, on whom she ruminates in the most illustrative fashion. “Something in his chin-length blond hair, in the diminutive leanness of his chest, refined for me just what it was about the particular subset of this age group that I found entrancing,” Celeste confesses. “He was at the very last link of androgyny that puberty would permit him: undeniably male but not man.” Once she convinces Jack to give in, Celeste performs every salacious, graphic sexual act under the sun—almost as if she is committing these brazen acts on him and not with him. She even starts sleeping with her lover’s father just to cover her tracks. For decades, transgressive fiction has traditionally been grim, male and graphic. For those few voices asking why there aren’t more women working in this swamp, this one’s for you.

A taxing attempt to penetrate the mind of female child molesters with grimy, mundane results.

Pub Date: July 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-228054-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013


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