Farm girl becomes supermodel in actor Bogosian’s dark, raunchy second novel (after Mall, 2000), about sex and drugs in the big city.
Reba Cook is 20 when she loses both parents to cancer, leaving her alone with older brother Billy on their failing farm in upstate New York. She gets no comfort from her brother, a hard-drinking bully ashamed of lusting after her, or from her new boss, Frank, a bank manager unhappy with her oral sex technique. One Saturday in the city, selling their apples at the market alongside Billy, she allows herself to be picked up. The guy deflowers and discards her in short order. A second guy hits on her at a McDonald’s, and this time Reba lucks out. Paul is a fashion photographer who sees the potential in this leggy blonde with beautiful eyes. In a heartbeat, she has an agency contract and becomes an overnight sensation. But this isn’t just Reba’s story. There’s also Rick, a 45-year-old doctor with a lucrative private practice, a happy family in the burbs, and a raging midlife crisis. He has a swell wife in Laura and two sweet kids, yet he yearns to run wild, though so far all he has managed is a Portnoyesque involvement with his penis (there are three masturbation scenes). He gets a shot at liberation when Billy becomes his patient. If Reba has ascended to its heights, Billy has hurtled implausibly into the city’s depths, and, now a violent derelict, he’s been razor-slashed by drug dealers. Late in the story, Rick and Reba meet to discuss her brother. Reba is snorting heroin and sleeping around, and reckless doctor and needy model launch themselves into a grand passion. Will it consume them?
The lovers’ high-wire act, in the final third, is gripping, the earlier stuff, like Reba copping drugs, merely titillating. Not surprisingly, Bogosian has a fine ear: more dialogue and fewer interior monologues might have made for a leaner, more powerful tale.