The Perfect Age

The Perfect Age

by Heather Skyler
     
 

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A sun-baked, beautifully observed debut for readers who loved Amy and Isabelle—a mother and daughter come of age in Las Vegas.Helen is just fifteen, lanky and striking. She is a lifeguard at the pool at The Dunes hotel this summer—her first job, a step toward independence in a world beginning to treat her as an adult and a woman. Her mother, Kathy,…  See more details below

Overview

A sun-baked, beautifully observed debut for readers who loved Amy and Isabelle—a mother and daughter come of age in Las Vegas.Helen is just fifteen, lanky and striking. She is a lifeguard at the pool at The Dunes hotel this summer—her first job, a step toward independence in a world beginning to treat her as an adult and a woman. Her mother, Kathy, watching Helen grow up, suddenly finds herself in a place equally uncertain: her children getting older, her stable marriage perhaps too stable, the slow days of summer leaving her adrift. When she meets Helen's boss, the manager at the pool, she chooses an affair that opens her to the idea of a different sort of life. Following Helen and Kathy through three summers, this novel is an intimate picture of two sexual awakenings under one roof and their aftershocks on a family. Heather Skyler shows us that the validity of life's deepest experiences—love, betrayal, acceptance—is never compromised by age.

Author Biography: Heather Skyler lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is her first book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Perpetually sunny Las Vegas is the setting for three summers of tangled love affairs in this sultry, reflective debut novel. Helen Larkin is 15 the summer she starts working as a lifeguard at the Dunes Hotel pool, brooding over her drummer boyfriend, Leo, and wondering whether her mother, Kathy, could possibly be having an affair with Helen's boss, the "over-forty walnut-colored" head lifeguard, Gerard. The question of betrayal is constantly on her mind, whether she is cheating on Leo with another lifeguard or spying on her mother eating chocolate chip ice cream in Gerard's kitchen. On a rebellious illicit date, she wonders, "If no one is hurt, is it actually wrong? Helen knows, somewhere inside her water-cooled limbs, that it is, but she floats on the other possibility for a while." Among those who might be hurt are Edward, Helen's buttoned-up father, a professor of Russian history, and Leo, who worries that he can't offer cosseted, beautiful Helen enough. Skyler takes the time and space to capture the natural emotional arc of relationships, adding nuance with some lovely descriptive writing ("Past this they dip into neighborhoods scarred by yellow lawns, each one leading to a house so cheap and thin it would never withstand a winter in Ohio"). The novel's conclusion is perhaps too neatly engineered, but Skyler perfectly captures the languid heat of long Las Vegas summers and the irresistible temptations of love at any age. Agent, Elizabeth Sheinkman. (May) Forecast: The novel's strong local flavor, well-judged early summer release and dreamy jacket will help it compete with similar tales of mother-daughter strife. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Skyler's first novel is set in Las Vegas, but casinos and drive-through wedding chapels do not figure in this beautifully wrought coming-of-age story. Instead, we watch protagonist Helen move from awkward 15-year-old to poised 18-year-old over three summers. Along the way, Skyler touches on the connection between sex and love-if, indeed, there is one-and offers a graphic look at the waxing and waning endemic to all long-term relationships. In addition, she tackles the ways children lash out at parents when they suspect a betrayal. Throughout, Skyler's writing is brutally realistic and starkly honest; indeed, both Helen and her parents are astutely rendered, and readers will feel true empathy for all of them. Likewise, Helen's boyfriend-who wavers between wanting to be with Helen every minute and desiring freedom and autonomy-is palpably real. There are loads of life lessons here, but unlike an after-school television special, this novel posits neither moral absolutes nor knee-jerk answers. Rich, smart, and nuanced, it is highly recommended for all libraries.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The evolution of a Las Vegas family over the course of three summers, as marked by the adolescent daughter's job as a lifeguard. Constructed a little too neatly in three acts, almost as if emotions go on hiatus during the nine months between summers, Skyler's debut opens with a season of sexual awakening. When she begins her lifeguard job at the Dunes Hotel, 15-year-old Helen has recently acquired her first boyfriend. Leo, from a financially struggling family shattered by divorce, is drawn to the stability of Helen's educated, upper-class world. His appeal to her seems largely physical, and soon they're having sex. Meanwhile, Helen's mother Kathy, a third-grade teacher who feels stifled by her own marriage to buttoned-down ULV history professor Edward, begins an unlikely affair with earthy Dunes pool manager Gerard. The second summer finds mother and daughter embroiled in their individual sexual complications and ensuing moral dilemmas. Confused by the extreme swing of her feelings toward Leo, Helen almost elopes with him yet drifts into casual sex with another lifeguard. She witnesses her mother's increasingly heated affair with Gerard, although Kathy denies it when confronted. By the third summer's denouement, Gerard asks Kathy to choose between him and Edward, who suffers in patient silence. Helen is about to head off to college, and Leo is beginning to have realistic dreams of his own; they finally acknowledge that they have no future together. Other things end as well: Gerard dies of a heart attack, and the Dunes Hotel is imploded. Despite her tendency toward unnecessary literary allusion, Skyler sensitively explores family dynamics, particularly the line between privacy and secrecy.Even better is the pathos she brings to her portraits of Leo and Edward, supporting players who steal the show. At times overly controlled, but rich in emotional density. Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman/Elaine Markson Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393058703
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/19/2004
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.58(w) x 8.06(h) x 1.03(d)

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