BURNING GROUND by Pearl Luke

BURNING GROUND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Seven seasons in a fire tower haven't done much for the fragile sanity of Percy Turner.

Alone for weeks on end, scanning the endless expanse of Canadian woods for the faintest trace of smoke, communicating with the outside world only through radio and e-mail, Percy (short for Priscilla) is utterly miserable. She broods obsessively over her unhappy childhood and yearns for Marlea, her childhood friend, whom she envisions as a milky-white goddess of lesbian love. Yes, Percy always knew she was different, and so did her mother, who stood by the side of the road shortly after she was born trying to give the yellow-eyed, jug-eared, scrawny baby away, screaming something about the spawn of Satan. Her mother eventually gets better, thanks to electroshock therapy, and Percy manages to grow up somehow, the terror of a trailer park so impoverished a double-wide seemed like a mansion. She yearns for Marlea, worships Marlea's pubescent curves, plucks leeches from Marlea's labia, caresses Marlea's flawless breasts, and so on. She stumbles upon a cache of porno magazines featuring rough, tough lesbians (and a few gentle girls) at play. These provide sensual thrills and emotional validation: there are others like her! Then the father of the family she baby-sits for makes not-unwelcome advances. Like any other teenager, Percy can use the cash and so she fulfills his masochistic fantasies. Marlea grows up, too, and goes off to live with a man she claims to care about (although she has sex with Percy every chance she gets). Percy sulks and whittles in her Calgary apartment, switching to fire-watching in the summer. She commences an e-mail romance with a fellow tower-dweller, broods some more, contemplates the possibility of hell on earth and whether freakish subterranean fires are any indication of it.

Grim, overwrought first novel heavily freighted with satanic symbolism and dirty thoughts. Luke's concise, vivid style is very much at odds with her subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-452-28267-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Plume
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2001