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OH, JACKIE by Maudy Benz


by Maudy Benz

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-885266-59-6

Stylish first novel, by journalist and performance artist Benz, about the sexual awakening of an adolescent girl. It’s 1963 when North Wagoner, 15, who has not yet had her first period, goes off for summer vacation on Glass Lake near Ypsilanti, Michigan. She—ll be staying with her cousin Dee Diehl and Uncle Judson, her mother’s brother, a plastic surgeon who reconstructs breasts and other damaged body parts, owns fancy cars, and has some peculiar hobbies. North has a crush on Jackie Kennedy, whom she resembles and has taken on as a surrogate big sister. She’s also just starting driver’s training, and Uncle Judd, who likes to take photos of her naked, uses his niece’s interest in cars to make several touchy-feely moves on her. Queen Mom and Dad, meanwhile, are off on a European tour (and apparently have no interest in having their daughter tag along). In Glass Lake, though, cousin Dee is leading shrinking violet North into the sexual mazes of the local dating rituals, and the girl once catches Dee having sex with her boyfriend Shrimp. When Dee starts vomiting and becomes moody and withdrawn, it doesn—t take North long to figure out that her cousin is pregnant. The increasingly outgoing North wins a drag race, driving Uncle Judd’s Stingray, but then finds herself uncomfortable being driven anywhere by a man. Back at school in the fall, she’s still pursued by Uncle Judd and at last begs her mother for help. But Queen Mom thinks her daughter’s infatuation with Jackie Kennedy, and the First Lady’s tragic problems, has induced North to fabricate the whole incident, which suggests that for girls molestation within the family is a no-win situation. A frank and convincing portrait of a young woman’s painful coming-of-age.