When her father’s passion for a better life moved the family from Los Angeles’ 80th Street to West Covina, Avery Arlington liked the suburb’s “promised stellar living.” Now she’s not so sure.
Avery, once in suburbia, disconnects, pulled toward angst and rebellion by her new best friend, Brenna, yet ensnared by the hard-line rules of her über-strict parents. Brenna is white, Avery African-American. Also in the mix: Avery’s cousin, Keith, flitting between Avery’s home and his single mother’s house in Victorville—and between trouble and rebellion. The story shifts between Avery’s childhood, descriptions and dialogue redolent of the rural south and of the ’hood, and the present day. Adult Avery lives in a Schnabel house wannabe in the moneyed hills of West Los Angeles. Avery graduated from USC—Johnson’s comprehension of poor girl among the rich is superb—and satisfied her parents’ ambitions. Soon after, she met and moved in with Massimo, an Italian immigrant and successful attorney. Avery holds a business degree, but her passion is art, both painting and collage, metaphorically symbolic of her self-constructed life, “putting together all my pieces of discarded things.” As much as Avery’s art represents the self she constructed, the shadow of Keith, thief and drug addict, hanging over and haunting her life, represents the oppression of choice, success and failure. Johnson’s novel speaks to race, class and culture; white, black, Hispanic and immigrant; the world as it is, and as it should be.
Meditative literary fiction, a near-dream-state reflection on the duality of life.