Fourteen-year-old Rainey Royal lives with her father, a jazz musician with a cultish personality, in a once-elegant, now decaying brownstone. Read more...
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Fourteen-year-old Rainey Royal lives with her father, a jazz musician with a cultish personality, in a once-elegant, now decaying brownstone. Her mother has abandoned the family, and Rainey fends off advances from her father's best friend while trying desperately to nurture her own creative drives and build a substitute family. She's a rebel, even a criminal, but she's also deeply vulnerable, fighting to figure out how to put back in place the boundaries her life has knocked down, and more than that, struggling to learn how to be an artist and a person in a broken world.
"Rainey Royal "is told in 14 narratives of scarred and aching beauty that build into a fiercely powerful novel: the harrowing and ultimately affirming story of a young artist.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-07-14
- Reviewer: Staff
In her first novel, Landis returns to the themes and characters of her collection of linked short stories, 2009’s Normal People Don’t Live Like This. The title character, 14 years old when we first meet her in 1972, lives in a once-grand Greenwich Village townhouse with her father, Howard, a jazz musician of some note, and Howard’s various hangers-on. The unwanted sexual attentions of her father’s friend Gordy, who also had a relationship with her absent mother, both confuse and repulse Rainey, who, along with friends Tina and Leah, wields her nascent sexual power awkwardly yet dangerously. Over the course of the novel, which covers more than a decade, Rainey develops into an artist, piecing together commemorative tapestries out of clothing, photographs, and jewelry of the deceased. Her story, along with Tina and Leah’s, illustrate a particularly fraught view of adolescent female sexuality. “Notice me. Stay away,” thinks Leah at one point at a party, and these dueling sentiments sum up these girls’ complex and contradictory attitudes toward sex, romance, and even friendship. Landis offers a rich, sometimes challenging portrait of young women doing their best to grow in the absence of positive role models. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Sept.)