Swimming Sweet Arrow: A Novelby Maureen Gibbon
Evangeline Starr Raybuck -- plain-spoken, lusty, and hardworking -- and June Keel are high school seniors, best friends going out with best friends, working together at Noecker's chicken farm after school. Vangie and June make out with their boyfriends together in the same car; they pass dirty notes to each other during the day at school. They tell each other everything: "That was the kind of friends we were".
After they graduate, things begin to shift. Vangie gets a job waitressing and moves in with Del; June, unable to get a job anywhere but the local factory, moves in with Ray and his older brother Luke. As they become more involved in their lives with their men, they see each other infrequently, but not so seldom that it doesn't become clear to Vangie that there's something dangerous going on, that June has crossed a line with the men in her life that even Vangie would not.
The New York Times Book Review
- Little, Brown and Company
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Read an Excerpt
" I saw more of June's brother than I did of June those days. Kevin wasn't exactly a regular, but when he did come in to the restaurant, he always sat at my tables, he always asked me how I was, and he always gave me a compliment. It was the same kind of flirting everyone did with me, but over time I got to be more and more aware of Kevin. I was aware of him not only as a result of the stories about him, but also for the way he seemed to live within the stories that were told.
One night, right after I got bitched at by Earl - because instead of just slapping salad into a bowl, I'd actually taken five extra seconds to arrange the tomato like a flower, which Earl thought was a waste of time - Kevin seemed to know things were rough.
"He should be glad you work here," he told me. "You're the best thing about this place."
It was nice to hear the words after just getting screamed at, and I wanted to be nice to him back. So I said, "The best thing, huh? Well, where have you been all my life?"
At first it felt like a bomb had dropped, but then I realized that was why Kevin said it. It wasn't like people didn't already have it on their minds as soon as they saw him, so it was his to joke about if he wanted.
I said, "Was the food any better there?"
He didn't say anything to that, but he smiled, and I knew I had been right to say it.
That comment sort of broke the ice, and I came to see him as a kind of friend. If I had the time, I would sometimes grab a cup of coffee and sit with Kevin at his table. The only other person I felt safe doing that with was Bill Mahlon, because he was older than my dad. But I felt safe doing it with Kevin, too, in spite of everything, because he was June's brother and because I felt that I knew the worst there was to know about him. In a way, that made me like him, because there was no secret about him. I still was scared of him, but I knew that people could be more than one thing at a time. I didn't think what he let happen to June when she was ten was right, but he was also the person who had been tender with her when she was eight, driving her around until she got dizzy watching the sky. He committed a crime, but he'd served time for it. He was what he was.
Kevin and I never talked about anything important anyway. Work and the weather. But kind people who peppered my day were a type of friend, and their compliments, or their teasing, or just the sight of their faces, meant something to me. No matter how busy we got, even if I overlooked him for a bit, Bill Mahlon was always patient and called me the Peekaboo Girl and made sure I got my dollar tip. The game warden who teased me about the time he caught me and June skipping school and swimming out at Sweet Arrow Lake always made sure I got a dollar tip from each of the guys at his table. Kevin Keel always said I was pretty in whatever color I had on that day and made sure I got my tip. I didn't give a shit if the reason they gave me money was because they could see the flowers on my underwear or not. Because as tough as I pretended to be, I still craved kindness, and I took it where I could find it. Copyright (c) 2000 by Maureen Gibbon"
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(Susanna Moore, author of In the Cut)
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A very honest, insightful look at female sexuality. A very erotic novel, but also so much more, with terrific characters and a fast pace. Sexy and light, trully unforgettable.
Two best friends, Vangie Raybuck and June Keel did everything together like double-dating with their boyfriends, etc. After they graduate high school, their friendship changes. The character I didn't like was main character Vangie. She seemed like a confused person. This book gets five stars, because, author Maureen Gibbon seems to know what goes on inside a young girl's head.
I've read this book over and over again. Not because of the sex and drugs, but because it is a coming of age story and some of Vangie's thoughts and actions remind me of what I would do in those situations. I think it is a great story about friendship and love, with an erotic twist. My favorite thing about the book is it takes place at sweet arrow lake. My grandparents own a cottage across from it
this book was awesome. from the first three lines of the book, you're hooked. it's honest and it tells the truth of how life is and the things you have to put up with and do as a female in this world. i definitely recommend it. all my guy friends refer to it as the 'sex book' but it's a lot deeper than just sex. its a book every girl should read.
I thought this book was amazing. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It's one of the few honest books I've ever read about what it's like to grow up female, and it's one of the few honest books about sex. I could relate to Vangie and her friend June -- to their dilemmas, their feelings and their experiences. The book is shocking in places, but that's because there's so much truth in it. It makes me think of those photos by Walker Evans in LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. Gibbon doesn't turn away from the un-beautiful, and the result is a book that is strong and haunting.
Raw and uncompromising, Swimming Sweet Arrow shows us Vangie's effort to transcend the brutality in her life. Gibbon's book explores her suffering, her sass and bravado, the grace in her grim survival. But Swimming Sweet Arrow tells also us just as much about ourselves--what moves us, how we waste and lose our lives, and where we finally find benediction.
I read this novel straight through. The pacing is so strong that it pulls you in. I couldn't stop reading--mainly because the narrator, Vangie, speaks so directly. At times the frank voice felt searing and unmodulated, something like reading a journal. In some other hands, the recklessness of Vangie, her working-class, small town situation, more typically would receive irony, veiled condescension. Swimming Sweet Arrow demands you to approach Vangie's life on her terms. In a way, like Zola, but with optimism. This book gives you a different take on sex, choices, life. It is unlike anything I've read