SUZI SINZINNATI by Joe David Bellamy


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The winner of the sixth annual Editors' Book Award is a boy-meets-girl novel with effortful twists and period detail (cars and music of the late 50's) that fail to keep it from resting on the surface most of the time. It feels like the end of the world to Moke Galenaille in 1960 (he's 18), when the girl he loves leaves him for a physicist she's met at Smith College (Moke himself has put in a year as premed at Duke). In the despair of loneliness and sorrow after the breakup, Moke goes to the Gayety Burlesque in downtown Cincinnati, where--a fantasy comes to life--he sees, strip-dancing up on the stage, the most beautiful of girls (""A wave of electricity passed through the crowd""). Moke writes her a note, she gives him a call, and young romance begins. Suzi (real name: Sonya Velonis) might seem a jaded stripper in public, but in private she's something quite else. Accompanied always by her aging and overprotective mother (also a stripper), Sonya, at 17, is very nearly a walking orgasm but also sweetly innocent; she and her mother, Hazel, are temporarily on the burlesque circuit, it turns out, because Sonya's father had a yen for molesting her, and she and her mother had to go off on their own. Taking them under his palpitating wing, Moke invites them to Florida for the rest of the summer, where his father works for a millionaire born-again capitalist-evangelist. There will be lots of heavy-handed satire of the evangelists; a lot of sex with Sonya (almost all solo; she's strictly a virgin); and a devastating (if hardly necessary) hurricane before Sonya and Hazel will go back to Montreal, where they live, and before Moke will go back to the lonely misery of studies at Duke. Will he, as the dismal semester drags on (in the novel's most fully realized part), qualify for Johns Hopkins med school? Or will he just throw his whole career over? Will Sonya forget him (or has she already)? Or will they, at end, be reunited--forever? Uneven work that rides indecisively between satire and seriousness; with main characters who don't quite deepen; and an authorial ear (""There is something so open and innocent and direct about Sonya, Moke marvels"";"" 'I want to get to know you too. I think you're basically a very nice person' "") that is often badly out of tune.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1989
Publisher: Pushcart