Witt’s first outing, told by a middle sibling, is the story of a North Carolina family, dysfunctional in touching and sometimes very amusing ways.
Morgan-Lee is 15, though she takes us back to earlier years as a way of letting us know who everyone is—and they’re quite a bunch. Her slightly older brother Ginx, for starters, is brilliant but autistic, loved intensely by Morgan-Lee, who both wants his praise and wants to protect him—in spite of his often attacking her with pummels that leave real bruises. Younger Dana is the “normal” one, interested in boys but not in her high-mannered, always-exhausted, neurasthenic and hypercritical mother: in fact, Dana has taken to living mainly at the house of ditzy but welcoming Aunt Lois, who gives cosmetic make-overs and affects knowledge of all things about romance, though her husband, Uncle Pete, is if anything an uncut gem. Morgan-Lee’s bumbling and mild-mannered father completes the roster—that is, until the tall and slim girl from the wrong side of the tracks, with the name of Sweety-Boy, appears one day selling her homemade jellies and jams. Dana’s delight on learning that Sweety-Boy is the sister—well, half-sister—of 16-year-old garage mechanic Jacob leads to a party invitation at Sweety-Boy and Jacob’s place. Things go mighty fast from then on—including the party itself, which may be the most brilliantly described, and outright hilarious, portrait of kids and alcohol ever. The portrait deepens, though, as Morgan-Lee takes upon herself the “protection” of Dana and has her own long night’s encounter with Jacob (another flawless, pitch-perfect section). Serious trouble follows from the jealous—and, yup, incestuous, plus more—Sweety-Boy, who gets vengeance (in just the right amount, though) on Morgan-Lee in a most interesting way before the tale’s perfectly sad and very funny close.
Follows old trails, yet everything you come upon seems absolutely new. A real wonder.