FREEING VERA by Elissa A. Raffa


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A slow-moving tale of one woman’s ongoing struggles to make peace with herself and her family.

Newcomer Raffa delivers the coming-of-age story of Francesca D’Amato, a feisty young activist lesbian from Mt. Kisco, New York. Frannie has grown up with a troubled home life: Her mother Vera has MS, and her overbearing, rage-prone father Anthony is neglectful of Vera and emotionally abusive to the family. As the youngest of four siblings, Frannie spends her teenage years fighting losing battles with both parents: Anthony alternately ignores and spurns Frannie, while Vera is passive and will not respond to Frannie’s insistence that her mother wish or fight for a better life. After high school, Frannie flees to Chicago, sets up camp in an all-woman co-op apartment and gets a job. Yet while Frannie moves forward, her past is close behind, and she keeps returning to Mt. Kisco, with hopes of effecting meaningful family change. Despite her best wishes, Frannie can’t seem to find a good way to liberate her mother or sidestep her father. Instead, she often alienates herself. After failing to gather her sisters around the cause of protecting her mother, Frannie retreats to her life in Chicago, where she tries to gain equilibrium, find love and move on with her life. While there’s a lot of rich material to work with, Frannie’s battles grow a bit tedious—in part because Raffa’s characters often seem static. Over time, the novel devolves into an account of Frannie’s ongoing dissatisfaction. In the end, some constellations do shift: Vera weakens, and, in a bizarre twist of fate, Anthony takes a gay lover. The old house falls apart, and Frannie finds a way to free herself.

A meandering account of change and the ties that bind.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 2005
ISBN: 1-57962-120-1
Page count: 286pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2005