A finely wrought first novel about a young woman who returns to her hometown upon being notified of the violent death of her older sister.
It’s not an auspicious beginning for twentysomething Katey Bruscke, as she arrives back home after an absence of two years. For one thing, she’s there not because she wants to be but because her beloved, drug-addicted sister Reese has just been murdered. For another, first thing off the bus she’s mugged at gunpoint by a guy who turns out to be someone she went to high school with. After reminiscing with him over a cheese Danish, Katey, who has abruptly left her lover (or is he?) back in Colorado, she proceeds to sleep with her younger sister’s boyfriend, reacquaint herself with old friends, most of them going nowhere fast, identify Reese’s bullet-ridden body, and wander aimlessly through the bleak, dreary suburban landscape as she attempts to come to grips with her sister’s death and her own nomadic life. There’s not much plot here, but Gussoff has an especially keen eye for detail. The language is stark and powerful, and her description of Katey’s family life offers a disturbing glimpse of the other side of the American Dream: “Time always moved over our family, moving over us silently. We gathered dust, we lived like bordering countries. Everyday events secret; there was no common language to use. If I said, I’m afraid. I’m confused, our mother would clutch her sides, answering. Oh, darling, my arthritis. Lupus. Fibromyalgia. Our father falling silent, waiting to be excused. It couldn’t be what I meant, I’d say. It’s okay. I’m fine. I’d kill my words, and in killing them, slowly die. This is what I learn from Reese. All the games. To make me strong, she said.”
A tautly written, haunting tale of loneliness, alienation, and lost hopes and dreams.