A slightly surreal novel about a young woman reckoning with her buried identity.
Every significant moment of Gloria Ricci’s life is accompanied by bees: she is stung when her mother loses twin boys and is plunged into a depression, when she marries a man after knowing him only 10 weeks, when that man almost beats her to death. Not only are the bees an alert when something is horribly wrong, they are her connection to her deceased best friend, Sheffield Schoeffler. Gloria and Sheff meet at the Belmont Institute, where they have been sent to be “cured” of their homosexuality, to be “[made] like everybody else.” There, they are mistreated and tormented, permanently damaged. After their respective releases, they meet in New York, where Sheff turns tricks for money and becomes increasingly unhinged. One day, they meet Madame Zelda, a Coney Island fortuneteller who tells Gloria why the bees materialize; Zelda reappears often throughout the novel in moments of distress, and Gloria even names her daughter for the fortuneteller. To live her life after Sheff’s death, Gloria dissociates; she makes the choices she thinks she’s supposed to and carries on repressing her identity until she can no longer stand it. This novel is somewhat banal, even despite the supernatural tilt. Yet while the prose rings hollow, Young-Stone’s (Above Us Only Sky, 2015) message is a strong one: do not deny your self.
At its heart, this is a meandering, mystical love story.