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 A gratuitously bizarre, reader-unfriendly tome by the author of Skin (1993); you can almost see through it, despite the murky prose. Grant Cotto is a photographer with a serious case of artist's block and a lot of time on his hands. When he sees the tortured drawings of Robin, an institutionalized schizophrenic under the care of his art therapist girlfriend, Johanna, the fun begins in earnest. Grant decides to help Robin free his artistic inner self by encouraging his drawing, a talent the author intimates is part of Robin's illness. Naturally, Johanna disapproves of this manipulation of Robin, and after a few heated exchanges, she moves out. Now misguided Grant can enjoy some real destruction. He encourages Robin to leave Clearwater Psychiatric, go off his medication, and move in, so that he may devote himself slavishly to producing drawings of fascinating, twisted beauty. Soon, a strange kind of co-dependency develops, and Grant's interest shifts from the drawings to Robin himself. The two share all kinds of adventures, including experiments with sensory and sleep deprivation and a visit to an Evangelical Pentecostal meeting in order to assuage Robin's growing fixation with angels. At the church, they meet Saskia, also a Clearwater outpatient, and before long they're spending a lot of time at her ``Holiday House,'' so named because she won't take down her Christmas decorations. Of course, an odd triangle develops, but the unmedicated Robin begins to fall apart, starving himself and resisting help from his roomies so that he may die and join the angels. With the exception of a sensitive, if somewhat drawn-out description of Robin's death, Koja portrays her characters as one-dimensional losers. Additionally, the story is laden with what aspires to be foreshadowing--too bad there's so little action to foreshadow. Strange, indeed.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-30892-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994


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