WILD BANANAS by Sandra Thompson


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Salina Jane Feldman is the months-only bride of Barry, a hip Miami jazz-playing law student giving law school a last cut-rate shot in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Sixties. Salina--eternally ""Baby"" to hyper-cool Barry--is finding it hard to get her bearings in the not-quite-yet-New South: she works for the Welfare Department, the only half-Jew on its staff (neither her family nor Barry's is exactly thrilled at this mixed marriage, either); while life at home with Barry seems duller, more straitened and alien despite all his native charm. In a matter of months, the marriage has pooped out; there's Salina's boredom, the pressure on Barry to be both cool and successful in a third-rate law school he doesn't care about in the barbarian culture surrounding him. Thompson (Close-ups, 1984) does the story with minimalist brush-strokes and plenty of empty space in between--out of which comes rushing the often dizzying feel of a situation that got off on the wrong foot and will never find the right one no matter who tries or how. Salina and Barry's befuddlement is sometimes comic, depressingly vexed at others; but there's no strict alternation, a welcome suppleness in a first novelist. And the book, incidentally, contrasts interestingly with the work of someone like Frederick Barthelme, whose South of two decades later this most definitely isn't. Salina's Alabama still has a cherry-red neck, and a scallop of danger and threat. Not a book invested with the most literary depth, yet a sad/funny first novel of real pathos and skill.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1985
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown