A series of stories linked by their Southern California setting and their spirit of dislocation.
The characters in Lefer’s collection (Very Much Like Desire, 2000, etc.) are in a place they don’t feel they belong. Displacement is most obvious in the title story, a novella about a social-justice lawyer who moves from New York to San Pedro to escape her past (one that includes a haunting, abusive lover and dangerous work in Mississippi). She befriends another drifter, and they travel to Mexico, where they are even more out of place. In “At the Site Where Vision Is Most Perfect,” a Mexican woman faces deportation for a crime she was coerced into confessing decades earlier, while her American husband and son try to understand life without her. “Naked Chinese People” deals with racial stereotype, as a white woman tries to understand her feelings for her white husband and black ex, among others. In “The Atlas Mountains,” a woman who calls tech support for help with her computer contemplates an affair with the immigrant worker because she is intrigued by his voice. Other stories are more abstract, such as “Alas, Falada!,” in which a zoo employee goes on the lam with the antelope head she is assigned to transport. Lefer smacks readers hard over the head with her litany of important, but conventional and overused, themes, and her experimental prose (alternating narrators every other sentence, for example) is distracting.
Entirely ordinary, despite clearly painstaking attempts not to be.