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TULLY by Paullina Simons

TULLY

By Paullina Simons

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-11083-9
Publisher: St. Martin's

 In her first novel, an opus with soap opera overtones, Simons uses a voice as flat as the Kansas prairie to relate the story of Natalie Makker, nicknamed Tully due to her brother's mispronunciation of her name. At times this voice is used to great effect. Tully's life is dramatic--her mother beats her brutally, her best friend commits suicide over a high school love, and as an under-age teenager she earns money by performing wantonly in dance contests--and a more enthusiastic narration could have made these incidents melodramatic. But the repetitious plot eventually grates. Tully finds herself having to choose between two men not once, but twice. She becomes pregnant while taking birth control pills twice as well, she habitually slits her wrists because she likes how it feels, and her mourning over the death of her teenage best friend Jennifer--a formerly autistic young woman who still counted compulsively--drags on well into adulthood. This is the weakest point in development of Tully's character, since Jennifer is only introduced as a depressed teenager and it is therefore difficult to understand why Tully would place this loss at the center of her existence. The Kansas setting is evocative in its emptiness, but there is also a certain hollowness at Tully's core that keeps her from human contact and staves off empathy; at one point she says of herself to a boyfriend: ``There is no center. There is only the outer edge. Inside is a black hole''--and that is all too easy to believe. An overload of angst and unnecessary length finally do this novel in. (First printing of 165,000; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selections; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)