A Nebraska girl attending a Midwestern college in the 1960s is taken advantage of by an unscrupulous foreign student, something she takes decades to fully understand.
In Goodson’s novel, one narrator is the nameless blue-eyed girl; the other is Sayiid Algedda, a man from an unnamed Middle Eastern country who comes to America for college. The blue-eyed girl, pretty, naïve and trusting, feels responsible for keeping others happy—like so many girls of her generation. She’s no match for the rich, well-connected and sociopathic Sayiid, who manipulates her into being alone with him and then rapes her. He insists on continuing to see her, controlling her through fear and intimidation. She’s already seen how easily a girl’s life can be ruined through gossip, and diplomatic immunity protects him from arrest. Over the years, Sayiid continues to contact her and her family. It’s not until later in life that she’s able to fully confront her experience. Goodson (It’s Your Body...Ask!, 2000) powerfully conveys the girl’s nightmarish, slow-motion helplessness, more harrowing for the veneer of a normal relationship: “I laughed with Sayiid because I could not get away, and I could not live in a continual state of anger. I smiled to survive,” says the blue-eyed girl. Readers are likely to spend much of the book tense and angry on her behalf, so vividly does Goodson evoke her trapped, shamed cooperation. He makes understandable the cultural and family background that keep her silent and the many ways she was set up—for example, by the professors who “encouraged us to socialize with guys whose culture taught them that a girl by herself was fair game.” While Goodson portrays Sayiid as a villain, not all Middle Eastern men are so depicted; Sayiid’s compatriots are characterized as men of integrity. The sometimes overlong but realistic novel shows the slow process of understanding: “In the movies, the heroine gets angry, toughens up, and kicks ass; but in real life, things unfold.” Goodson describes this unfolding well, with a heartening conclusion.
A compassionate, well-written novel with memorable characters and skillfully expressed insights.