KING OF THE WORLD by Merrill Joan Gerber


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Gerber (a story collection, Honeymoon, 1985; numerous novels for adults and young adults) won the Eighth Annual Editors' Book Award (for worthy books rejected by commercial publishers) with this disturbing and convincing psychological novel about an abusive relationship. For heroine Ginny--trapped by workday drudgery, a stifling relationship with her mother, and damaged self-esteem caused by her almost-crippling curvature of the spine--sexy, exciting Michael offers escape. Sure, there are danger signs--he can't hold a job; on a trip to Mexico he seriously considers letting another man have sex with Ginny for money--but he not only adores Ginny, she is convinced that he needs her. Besides, there's a strong sexual and emotional bond, including their shared, thwarted longing to live the American Dream. Ginny hopes their private adoption of a child will improve their lives. Instead the arrival on the scene of baby Adam only exacerbates Michael's erratic and violent behavior. He's diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia after returning to the scene of an attempted rape; Ginny finally seeks help in the difficult job of ending the relationship. Like Susan Brownmiller's Waverly Place, Gerber's novel is based on actual--if slightly less sensational--events; but unlike Brownmiller, Gerber successfully enters the consciousness of the disturbed and violent man, revealing grandiose fantasies and a distorted logic that is often as sad as it is horrifying. Insightful, with the ring of emotional truth. It's surprising that this did not find a commercial publisher.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1989
Publisher: Pushcart