Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Backslide by Teresa Stores

This is a novel that I read for my new lesbian book club that I started. I just came upon this book while searching for something which wasn't either romance or erotica - it was a difficult find, but a good find. I lucked up on something really decent. More than decent.

This was a complex, thoughtful coming of age story of junior high student Virge Young. After we meet her as a successful adult author, it follows a year of her life as a young teenager when she nearly gets "kilt" by a snake, loses her best friend, becomes a loner, and deals with her religion, her culture and her sexuality. There are a whole host of supporting characters along the way, everything from a Vietnam veteran to a Holocaust survivor, and the novel is interspersed with the adult Virge Young's experiences reuniting with pivotal people from her past.

I appreciate this novel because it is so far away from what I was trying to avoid - glib, lesbian pulp fiction - but I also wonder if this novel didn't go too far in the other direction, taking on virtually every heavy topic there is to discuss, from religion to racism, that it couldn't thoroughly address any of those. My book club readers certainly had questions and felt that they wanted more out of the book, and the main character, regarding these issues. Then again, maybe these issues can never be finalized.

At the opening scene some provocative statements about Christianity are made - the main character has been hurt by fundamentalism. This novel doesn't back down from that and other difficult topics, though it doesn't solve them either. Those concerns aside, this was a thoughtful, deep, well-written novel with a main character that I think (would hope) anyone would be able to engage with, as the universal, human emotions of loss, confusion and loneliness come through and engage the reader in the main character's struggle. - 4 stars


Amanda said...

This also sounds interesting. I'm glad you were able to find something and to get your book club going. Did you have a lot of people show up?

Julie said...

I think its great that you started a book club, Amber. I really like book clubs because it is so fun to discuss books!
I like the concept of this book of how you are introduced to Virge as a successful author & then it sounds like it flashbacks to a year or so of her life. It seems a fascinating way to write a book.
I often think and dream this way through flashbacks of my own life.

Amber said...

Thanks. I'm glad I started the book club, too. Four people showed up, which is twice as many as I expected. Woo-hoo!