Email this review


National Public Radio commentator and Village Voice writer Stone's first novel--a coming-of-age story about a family under the influence of a psychologist who, it turns out, molests most of his female patients. At its best, the novel deals convincingly with the hazards of upward mobility in a world where values are no longer fixed. Narrator Julie Stark is a member of a family that has moved from New York's Lower East Side to Long Island: her father manufactures coats for girls, her mother is a ""displaced waif,"" and her sister Madelyn is ""tired."" Julie thought they ""were upward bound, my father steering,"" but instead she discovers that they are absolutely under the thumb of Serge, a Freudian psychologist with a flourishing practice. Sister Madelyn is first sent to that paragon, and her problems disappear. Father: ""Oh, darling. he's a genius. He knows everything."" Julie's mother sees him, too, and inevitably so does Julie; at first, he seems a wisdom-figure, but soon enough reveals a kinky edge. Even so, he guides Julies through social intricacies as she tries to ""win"" various friends. When she meets artist Jacques, her eventual lover, she ""began to doubt Serge,"" and shortly afterward, spending a weekend at the psychologist's house, she finds herself fondled and finally seduced (""I'd wonder how I was supposed to grow up, but it would only be an exercise, because now I knew there was no such thing""). She survives the trauma, however, by getting fat, and eventually, in 1980, when her father is sick and near death, there is a family reconciliation and then a coming-to-terms with the ghost of Serge (also dead by now) through a batch of his letters where he ruminates about his own dark past and his Lolita complex. A thoughtful first effort, patchy in places, but persuasive in its depiction of a family (and a psychologist) uprooted and ill-at-ease in the modern world.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday