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BAILEY'S BEADS by Terry Wolverton

BAILEY'S BEADS

By Terry Wolverton

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-571-19891-0
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 Poet Wolverton (ed., Hers: Brilliant New Fiction by Lesbian Writers, 1995) wears many hats--her ambitious debut as a novelist features several poems that could stand alone, a story-within-the- story that gives some needed distance from her characters (to tell what would otherwise be a now-trite incest tale), and a stark but melodious prose style. Professional photographer Djuna Rifkin doesn't know whether she'll be able to cope when her lover, writer Bryn Redding, goes into a coma following a car accident. The last thing Djuna expects is that she'll gain strength and courage from the most unlikely source of all: Bryn's mother Vera. Djuna knows, from Bryn, that Vera stayed married to Bryn's stepfather Chet even though he beat Vera and molested Bryn throughout much of her childhood; what she and Bryn had not known was the extent to which Vera has been living in miserable denial. Together, as Vera and Djuna try to coax Bryn out of her coma, they grow to understand her as neither of them ever has before and, in the process, become friends--of a sort- -themselves. When Bryn starts to recover, it is Vera--from whom she's been estranged for years--she turns to in a childlike way; she remembers nothing of the past five years, including all the time she's spent with Djuna. Bryn's femme friend Emily lends vital support to Djuna, Vera, and Bryn. Those who hope for a neatly packaged happy ending will be disappointed: Wolverton provides these women with no easy-outs. But she has created a woman-centered story to which any mother, daughter, friend, or lover can relate. One could argue that Wolverton aims too high here, but the flaws are generally overpowered by confident style and affecting characters.