Sunday, September 23, 2007

Victoria Redel/LOVERBOY

This is a novel about a woman obsessed with her child, a woman who creates a world to contain herself and her son, in which the rest of society intrudes minimally or not at all--and whose plan succeeds until the boy inevitably recognizes what he is missing. The story opens with the unnamed narrator in a hospital, vaguely aware of the nurses and other medical personnel who attend her, and proceeds entirely within the narrator's consciousness, either as flashback memories or interior monologue, until the last few pages, when it shifts to a dialogue among the nurses which explains what has happened. We begin by wondering what she has done, and watch the story gradually unfold to its sad, disturbing, and ironic conclusion. Victoria Redel is not only a novelist but a poet, and brings a lyrical touch to this compelling story. The narrator maintains the reader's sympathy despite her aberrant behavior, and we hope for a solution that will make her boy happy without breaking his mother's heart. I won't give a lot of details because I don't want to spoil the journey for other readers, but I will give you a taste of the way the story is told. The narrator is in the hospital, remembering:
"The first time I took him to a crowded park after he could walk, he scooted off, out of grasp. Teenagers ranged in gangly romantic tackles on the lawns. He wriggled out of my hold and was off. Someone drifted in front of me blocking my sight. Then all I could see was a thicket of strollers, their wide, loose-limbed bodies blocking the path. For that moment I imagined everything that would happen. The edge of a pond. The gnawing park rats. A split in the path. Who were the men on benches hiding behind papers or boldly watching people? There were arms to get around, the glare of noon, a fat couple coming together in an embrace. I swatted and pushed.
"It feels like that when I wake here, when I float up to the surface, it feels the same, just like that.
"This too bright room.
"There is a man in the corner. He sits with his book closed and watches me." (p. 33)

Loverboy was awarded the S. Mariella Gable Prize by Graywolf Press in 2001. It is 208 pp. long, and I read it in an afternoon and evening.


angelle said...

oooh. this sounds very interesting. thanks for sharing.

vivian said...

Victoria Redel teaches writing to graduates and undergraduates at Columbia, so she might read from time to time in NYC. She is also on the faculty of the Vermont College MFA program, and ran a novel workshop at the Postgraduate Writers' Conference I recently attended.

Lisa said...

I recently saw the film adaptation of this, with Kyra Sedgewick. It was pretty powerful, so I can only imagine that the novel was fantastic.

Church Lady said...

I'm ordering this. Thanks for the great review, which doesn't spoil the ending!