THE AGE OF CONSENT by Geoffrey Wolff


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 In his fifth novel, Wolff (The Final Club, 1990, etc.) deftly mixes a detective-like investigation with rites of passage longueurs to unmask a contemporary serpent in an equally contemporary paradise. When 15-year-old Maisie Jenks deliberately dives headfirst from a high cliff on July 4, her family, especially younger brother Ted, and their entire utopian community are never the same again. Ted begins an investigation that moves from the past to the present as he tries to understand just why his sister did what she did. Maisie and Ted are the children of Ann and Jinx, affluent products of the early 1970s who were persuaded by Jinx's charismatic college roommate, Doc Halliday, to invest in a decaying upstate New York camp. Under Halliday's leadership the camp becomes the Blackberry Mountain community, where the houses are aesthetically and environmentally sensitive, and life is fun, ``a series of topping acts.'' Like so many others, Ted adores the gifted Halliday, who ``was brave, hot to climb a roof or a tree, take a kayak over the falls....No bluster just resolve and zip.'' Ted recalls how Maisie, known for her courage and iconoclasm, finally recovers from her fall yet is irrevocably changed (``she cannot abide recollection, especially the habit of recollection''); how idyllic his boyhood seemed despite the underlying tensions; how his parents' marriage broke down; and how the community itself changed. An incestuous episode is suggestive, but not until Ted himself is an adult teaching in a local school does he understand what really happened. A student essay plagiarizing Lolita provides the essential clue, not only to Maisie, but to his parents' divorce as well, and a heartsick Ted ensures that justice is done, even if it means a fatal betrayal. Except for the sluggish mid-section that recalls the past too lengthily and lovingly, an absorbing tale of monstrous evil with an all too human face. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-40638-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994


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