Washing down a birth control pill with a glass of milk. Just another day in the life of a teenaged girl living in Greenwich Village in the 70’s. Rainey Royal, her father, Howard (a celebrated jazz musician), and Gordy, Howards best friend, share a tumbledown brownstone with a rotation of musicians, sycophants and hangers-on. Her mother abandoned the family for an ashram in Colorado and much of Rainey’s life during the book speaks to her abscence.
“He was menacingly cool.”
That phrase sums up the wildly inventive jazz artist and veguely creepy dude that her father is. Just plain menacing describes the oily and unctious Gordy. That guy gave me the serious willies. Amid that suffocatingly bohemian lifestyle, Rainey is looking for her own voice and identitiy as an artist. The novel spans a decade or so and feels more like loosely linked stories, from different points of view, all in Rainey’s orbit. This device was interesting, some portions coming out better than others, but over all felt uneven and abrupt to me at times. Still, the language could be lovely or cruel, sometimes all at once. I will be looking for more from this writer.
I didn’t really like the character of Rainey. For all her disadvantages, the forced quirk grated a little. I get that she was damaged, but so were her purported best friends, Tina and Leah. Maybe all teenaged girls tear into each other this way, the love-hate-love of emerging hormones. I just couldn’t really see her appeal or fully understand the devotion the other two heaped upon her. Perhaps that the point.