3 by Julie Hilden


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A woman never quite all there loses herself even more completely in a dominating marriage.

In her memoir, The Bad Daughter (1998), Hilden dealt similarly with a disassociated protagonist, and now, in a first novel, manages to write about a bad marriage with a controlling husband (boring) who has a thing for S/M (more boring) and for talking his wife into threesomes (deadly boring) without falling prey to the pitfalls of excess in one direction or another that often accompany this kind of story. Narrator Maya has slept with only two men before she meets Ilan in college and undergoes her sexual awakening under his able and ardent hands. Neither of the two seems terribly motivated toward a career, but, fortunately, Ilan’s father not only works at a magazine where he finds them internships but lets them live in a gorgeous Tribeca loft he owns. Soon, the writing all day and having sex every night doesn’t seem to be doing it for Ilan, who exercises a powerful control over the distant and sedate Maya (in one episode she resorts to liposuction in order to fit into his mother’s old dress for their wedding). The two take out an ad for a sexual third, and it goes without saying that the resulting encounters will all go just as Ilan scripts them—to arouse Maya’s deep need to be controlled. Things progress to blindfolds and razor cuts as the pair explores every last possible angle of their erotic connections. At the same time that Maya is following every order in bed, she is becoming by far the more successful writer of the two, growing into a highly sought-after celebrity interviewer famous for her near-psychic ability to find out the interviewee’s deepest secrets. When tragedy intervenes, it’s no surprise but shocking nevertheless—testament to Hilden’s rather uncanny abilities. With a cool, clear detachment in highly burnished, efficient prose, the story manages to be sensual without losing its head, and psychological without wasting too much time navel-gazing.

A powerfully sexy, moody scenario.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 2003
ISBN: 0-452-28443-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Plume
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2003