He loves her obsessively. She’s conflicted. The standoff between stepbrother and stepsister lasts throughout Evison’s first novel.
Will Miller, protagonist and narrator, lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with his brothers, the twins Doug and Ross. Their father, Big Bill, a hippie turned bodybuilder, spends all his time at the gym. Eat meat, the big guy tells his kids; bulk up. Soon the twins are working out too, but Will rebels; when he’s seven, in 1974, he announces he’s a vegetarian. Not long after, his mother dies and Big Bill remarries. His new wife is another former hippie. Willow, a grief counselor, settles in with her daughter Lulu. The girl’s features don’t quite fit but she’s beautiful anyway and Will is smitten, filling up journal after journal singing her praises; the two become inseparable, communicating in their own private language. Everything goes swimmingly until Lulu returns from a cheerleading camp in Vermont a different person, distant and chilly. It gets worse. She starts mutilating herself and behaving like a mixed-up teenager, though hardly an interesting one. Only at the very end do we learn what happened in Vermont and the good reason for her change. She acquires boyfriends and then dumps them. “I will always settle for less than you,” she tells Will cryptically. At university in Seattle she’s impregnated by a musician; we’re not told what happens to the fetus. Big Bill develops heart problems, the result of steroid use; Evison doesn’t make much of this stunning development either. As for Will, a born loser, he stays obsessed with Lulu. His occasional dates are disasters. Even when running a hot-dog stand on the boardwalk with a colorful Russian immigrant, he remains colorless himself.
A low-energy novel about obsession; the sparks never fly.