PERFIDIA by Judith Rossner
Kirkus Star


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The author best known for her 1975 novel, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, again uses an actual murder case as inspiration for her fiction, this time in a masterful dissection of a young girl's tortured journey from mother-love to matricide. Anita Stern runs away from home when she's 16 and gives birth to her first child, out of wedlock, when she's 22. The ever-restless Anita manages to stay put for daughter Madeleine's first five years, but then the itch to wander takes hold of her again. She eventually settles in Santa Fe, moving in with a drug-dazed hippie who owns an old adobe house on Canyon Road. Demonstrating her practical brilliance, Anita soon turns the house into the road's largest art gallery; demonstrating her personal irresponsibility, she conceives a child with the hippie. But Anita loves babies. In fact, her adoration for baby Billy so completely eclipses her feelings for Madeleine that she often seems to forget that she even has a daughter. As Madeleine grows older, becoming ever more earnest and responsible in a futile effort to regain her mother's love, the hard-drinking Anita's neglect escalates to negligence (she stays out all night, or has sex in Madeleine's presence) and even physical abuse. Scarred by her mother's cruelty and by loneliness (her own first love affair ends badly), and longing for some sense of security, Madeleine finds herself locked in her adolescence into a love-hate struggle with her terrible mother--longing to return to the happiness of infancy, loathing her own ""boring neediness,"" and counting the days until her escape to college. Unfortunately, the stresses in Anita's life come to a head before Madeleine can flee. In an alcoholic rage, she attacks her daughter with a broken tequila bottle, and in fighting back, Madeleine alters both their fates. Relentless, suspenseful, and absolutely captivating. Rarely has a toxic mother-daughter love story been so expertly and convincingly evoked.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday