A woman explores complex family relationships and discovers truths about herself in this sensual, intricately woven offering from award-winning Huston (Fault Lines, 2008, etc.).
As freelance photographer Rena Greenblatt joins her aging father and abrasive stepmother in Italy for a dreaded week of vacation, the experience evolves into a period of self-reflection about her childhood, relationships, sensuality and self. Rena, a sexually uninhibited free spirit in her mid-40s, has had numerous lovers and husbands. Her chosen profession involves the use of infrared photography that allows her to “see” into the souls of her subjects during their most intimate moments. She is oddly reluctant to use her camera to document her trip and perhaps expose too many truths, but as she spends more time with her father and stepmother, slowly she peels away the complicated layers that encompass the intricate familial relationships that exist. Rena’s imaginary sister and voice in her head, Subra—the backward spelling of deceased photographer Diane Arbus—poses probing questions that prompt revelations about Rena’s background and her family: a once jealous and abusive older brother whom Rena loves, a mother who loved her but was always busy with her disadvantaged clients, and a philandering father, a doctoral candidate who once patterned himself after activist Timothy Leary and dropped acid with his daughter. As the week advances, Rena receives increasingly frantic phone calls from her French-born Algerian lover, who implores her to return to their home in France to document the race riots that are consuming the suburbs of Paris. But Rena, unwilling to affect an early departure, ignores his pleas as she faces the pivotal events of her past and reconciles these with the emotional reality of the present.
Huston provides readers with more than a mere snapshot; her raw and sensual writing delivers the complete picture.