AGE OF CONSENT by Marti Leimbach


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An unflinching look at sexual abuse from an author who isn’t afraid of difficult subjects.

When Bobbie ran away from home at 15, she intended to go back—as soon as the man who was molesting her moved out of her widowed mother’s house. Then Bobbie’s mom married Bobbie’s rapist, and Bobbie just kept running. Thirty years later, she returns to Maryland for one reason: to bring charges against the man who abused her. Having written popular novels about autism (Daniel Isn’t Talking, 2006) and early death (Dying Young, 1989), Leimbach is no stranger to tough topics. As she shifts back and forth in time—alternating between 1978 and 2008—she offers a horribly believable depiction of a child ensnared by a predator. In giving a voice to Bobbie’s mother as well as Bobbie, she foregoes the urge to simply blame a woman who failed to protect her daughter. However, this novel isn’t quite as deft as some of the writer’s other work. At several critical points, the plot depends on coincidence and actions that strain credulity. For example, on Bobbie's first night back in Maryland, as she’s waiting to testify against her abuser, her mother shows up at the isolated guesthouse where she's staying. Not only does her mother—and, most likely, her mother’s husband—know where she is, but Bobbie also has reason to suspect that her mother got word of her whereabouts from the innkeeper. Bobbie doesn’t even consider finding other, safer accommodations. This rather astonishing lapse in judgment only makes sense in that it’s necessary for setting up a climactic scene. Some readers may admire the way in which Leimbach essentially abandons the court case that provides her story’s scaffolding—the criminal justice system doesn’t always provide a satisfying conclusion—while others are likely to find that the author has broken a narrative contract.

Devastatingly powerful scenes trapped in a rickety plot.   

Pub Date: July 26th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-385-54087-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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