Seven nervy stories about damage and alienation mark a fine if largely downbeat debut.
Tears and harm, actual or threatened, recur repeatedly in Rivecca’s collection, which introduces young women—at school, at work—identifiable by their intensity, vulnerability and sense of otherness. The title story features Catholic high-school girl Emma, a “thoughtful outcast,” smart and self-conscious, in a narrative which includes some provocative sexual material. In “Yours Will Do Nicely,” Katrina is at college, dealing badly with sex and her own neediness. She may also be the Kath of the two-part “Very Special Victims,” which records her sexual abuse by an uncle and its repercussions in adult life. Possibly the strongest story, it showcases Rivecca’s talent for observation. A theme of creepy, threatening sexuality continues in “Look, Ma, I’m Breathing,” while “Consummation,” addressed to the doctor who saved a father’s life, unsparingly anatomizes love/hate feelings toward a parent. The closer, “None of the Above,” is a near-comical breath of fresh air, displacing suspected family abuse with something far wilder.
Narrowness of range and a sense of suffocation are alleviated by pinpoint phrasing and bright insight.