Murray charts a lustily tormented story of first love and heartbreak.
It’s September 1985 in the bosky precincts of Elerby University (though it conveys the intimacy of a small liberal arts college) in upstate New York. Colin is entering his sophomore year with a lousy love life and a lousy relationship with his father, but he does have a good friend in Karl (a handsome natural athlete who has a way with women) and in the Beatles—“when you love a band so much that its songs fill the empty spaces inside your head and heart.” But along comes Jasmine, a serious dish with lips like butter, who really gets inside Colin’s head and steals his heart. Murray’s writing is phonetic; Colin’s voice lifts from the page—young and inexperienced, star-crossed and love-lost, which will come true soon enough as Jasmine drops him like a load of bricks and proceeds, that very afternoon, to have sex with Karl, into whose room Colin charges without knocking, looking for commiseration and finding betrayal: “‘Yes! Yes! Don’t stop’…the girl demanded loudly. Her voice sounded familiar.” Murray draws Colin with immediate emotional pungency, and he doesn’t lose the beat even when the situations turn slapstick. Nor does he tidy Colin up, rather letting him sink into a great morass of self-pity from which he must drag his own sorry butt toward whatever measure of salvation a decent, immature young man can find. Yes, the Beatles do offer the solace of shared experience, of meaning and even a little direction, but it is Colin’s slowly gathering circle of friends—a very human society of odd fellows, including a dorm-cellar-dwelling delusional, a dark and mysterious Spanish professor on the run from her demons, big-hearted Big Ty and sweet Liz—who help illuminate the road ahead. Some of the sex scenes carry informational overload, but even then it is more humorous than cringing, perhaps even another epiphany that Colin collects: “There was no disappointment with Twinkies. You knew exactly what you were getting. Unlike Jasmine. Unlike love. Unlike life.”
A coming-of-age story with plenty of sting, where love is not only blind, but it blindsides.