PERMISSION by Saskia Vogel


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Echo, a Hollywood almost-was, is aging out of her chance at stardom. Then she meets Orly and Piggy—a dominatrix and her submissive—whose tender partnership helps her redefine what it means to give and to receive.

At 25, Echo seems to have missed her shot at the big time; she's foundered on the edges of a Hollywood career, toying with advertising, modeling, even the idea of high-end sex work but always returning to the inertia of hustling for bit parts and living off cash infusions from dad. Then, on a trip home to the Santa Monica–esque hills outside the city, Echo witnesses an accident that results in her father’s death. Her grief is claustrophobic, raw, and immobilizing. Though complicated by Echo’s difficult relationship with her thorny mother, her paralyzing sense of loss bogs down a character already mired in the fog of her unclear ambitions, and its haze threatens to submerge the book entirely. Fortunately, Echo’s miasma is pierced by a second, more dynamic character's perspective. Piggy is one of Echo’s new neighbors, a 50-something submissive and the antithesis to his housemate and dominatrix, the stunningly erotic Orly. Whereas Echo is a passive character, content to chronicle what she is offered in the heady descriptive voice that emerges as the author’s strong suit, Piggy’s desires are much clearer and more direct. His movement from the painful estrangement of his smothering marriage to becoming a member of a community that accepts him with both grace and ardor is nuanced and well-wrought. Meanwhile, the development of his relationship with Orly, his tumultuous rivalry with Echo as she assumes the role of Orly’s new assistant and lover, and his eventual reconciliation with both his partner and his own hard-won sense of self are the triumph of the novel. A sensitive and sympathetic figure, Piggy enlivens Echo’s character and allows the reader to view her as something other than a product of the cloud of privilege that seems to surround her.

An intimate study of power within two of the relationships that define us most precisely—that of lover and that of child.

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-55245-380-3
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Coach House Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2019


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