Abused and abandoned mothers and daughters learn to be like aloes—tough on the outside so they can stay soft within.
Oasis Apartments, a seedy motor court in Tucson, Ariz., is the setting for Jandrey’s debut, which gathers a group of suffering females and sifts through common factors in their misery. Leslie—herself the daughter of an abused mother—has fled here with her daughters, Audrey and Samantha, to escape from her violent husband, who not only beat her but took cocaine and fooled around with firearms. Another Oasis resident is topless dancer Eden, whose stepfather abused her before she ran away and fell in love with a drug dealer who is now in prison. Eden’s daughter, Chablee, and Samantha miss their fathers and feel abandoned, although not as much as Oasis Court’s obese, Jesus-loving, possibly schizophrenic and self-harming manager Dee, who was abandoned by her mother, then abused by her aunt and her uncle. Dee was also forced to abandon the baby that was born of her sexual exploitation when she was 15. There’s not much plot: Eden and Leslie discuss life and men, Audrey and Charlene discuss boys, Dee feeds and befriends Sammy. Then Sammy is raped by predatory Eddie, whom Dee flattens with a shovel. Narrated principally by Sammy, but with contributions from Dee, Leslie and Chablee, the tale is a looping and repetitive litany of unreliable (or worse) men and self-recriminatory women struggling to survive them. By the end, like the aloes, all the females have grown a bit.
Fluent, but the book’s drumbeat approach to its subject matter verges on the obsessive.