Email this review


A sadly obtuse updating of Lolita, in which Homes (In a Country of Mothers, 1993, etc.) welcomes us into the private world of a middle-aged pervert whose slow life behind bars allows him ample space to reflect upon his career in pedophilia. The sexual preoccupations that have distinguished much of Homes's prior work are orchestrated here into a pervasive horniness so widespread among her characters as to seem a sort of pandemic obsession set loose on the world. Our narrator--whom we meet doing time for statutory rape, sexual torture, murder, and necrophilia--is an extreme case, but he seems to have found kindred souls at every step of his way. His lunatic mother, for example, gets him off to a good start by raping him in the bathtub not long before she kills herself, and this pretty well establishes the pattern of sexual relations throughout the tale. In prison, Chappy--we're given only his childhood nickname--relaxes by following the adventures of his pen-pal, a Scarsdale coed who knew the girl he murdered and is now in the process of deflowering a 12-year-old boy in the neighborhood while fooling around with his father on the side. Her preoccupations, of course, are the counterpoint of Chappy's own desperate (and apparently genuine) love for Alice, the unfortunate young girl whose fate has landed him in the pen, Homes, however, seems somehow unable or unwilling to accept the parallels that she has so clearly drawn between mental decay and sexual license. In any case, the sex scenes are described with an overriding flatness that makes them less disturbing than bizarre, and Chappy's eventual release on parole (which is sprung as self-consciously as the finale of any thriller) will succeed in offending more than it excites. Overall, confused in conception and annoying in the monotony of its own obsessions: a mad rant.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0684827107
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Scribner