The love that dare not speak its name both connects and divides two friends in a group of three.
Lippincott’s third novel (Our Arcadia, 2001, etc.) sprints through the lives of Kathryn, Luke and Starling, devoted friends from the age of five. Luke is the son of an ex-soldier; Starling, “strange and beautiful,” is mixed race and gay. One night in their teens, Star seduces Luke with the aid of a bottle of wine, but the next morning Luke is full of anger and conviction—despite his pleasure the night before—that he’s “not that way.” Time speeds by, as Lippincott points out with references to Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Meanwhile, the trio fulfills its fantasy of a shared apartment in Manhattan. Star, however, fails to achieve his personal ambition—an acting career—and, denied Luke’s love, he leads a life of increasing depression and depravity. Kathryn marries an older, mentally ill poet. Luke, who seems to have no relationships, becomes an editor at a publishing house, but even analysis can’t get him to acknowledge his sexual orientation. Star eventually disappears. Kathryn takes a lover, Peter, who also turns out to have been part of a group of three friends, except this was in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and Peter lost his pals at Auschwitz. Late in life, Kathryn confesses her affair to Luke, and he reveals to her his regret at not accepting Star’s love.
Although nicely phrased, Lippincott’s melancholy, self-consciously instructive tale offers limited insights.