In Addonizio’s lumpen proletariat fairy tale, a young homeless woman in San Francisco survives a series of degradations, often self-inflicted, in her search for her lost husband.
By anyone’s standards, 24-year-old Rita has had a hard life. Raised in foster care after her mother’s murder by a boyfriend who also molested Rita, she began turning tricks at an early age and became addicted to heroin and alcohol. But the gamin beauty has found happiness with her husband Jimmy, a sweet man who plays the harmonica and holds a job, at least for a while. Rita and Jimmy’s fragile security shatters when they are evicted from their apartment. They move into a shabby hotel until Rita storms out after a fight over her heroin addiction. By the time she returns, Jimmy is gone. Rita finds herself on the streets. Addonizio (Little Beauties, 2005, etc.) describes with relish Rita’s wanderings among the city’s underclass: the homeless men in the park, the seedy hotels, the drug dealers. Street life’s usual danger is heightened when Rita witnesses a crime, but Gary, a private detective, takes her under his protection. Feeling pressured by his wife’s desire to have a child, Gary has begun his own downward spiral into alcoholism and thinks he’s fallen in love with Rita. All she wants is to find Jimmy. She has no idea that he’s been in jail for three months for his semi-involvement in a botched robbery. Now out, he is working hard at an Italian restaurant where he’s promoted from kitchen help to waiter, but his choice of friends threatens to get him into more trouble. As Rita and Jimmy long for each other, coincidences work against them until each grows relatively stronger and their paths converge into a not-quite-plausible happy ending.
Despite (or because of) her poetic flair, Addonizio’s overly romantic, dreamy take on the marginal world of her characters comes across as synthetic.