From the Publisher
"With all the cunning and control of a brilliant lover, she takes us places we dare not go alone." Los Angeles Times
"The book shocks, mesmerizes, repels, and titillates, erupting at one unforgettable point in a harrowing flashback that does for baths what Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho did for showers." Vanity Fair
"A breathtaking new novel...certain to cause controversy." Elle
"Superlative...undeniably shocking...superbly achieved by a writer who is a true artist." Vogue
"As dark and treacherous as ice on the highway...A. M. Homes never plays it safe and it begins to look as if she can do almost anything." Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like recent novels by Susannah Moore and Joyce Carol Oates, Homes's latest (after her A Country of Mothers) is a literary serial-killer novel, by turns sensational and clever, smutty and powerful. It is told as a prison confession, by a notorious but unnamed pedophile in his 23rd year at Sing Sing who has begun to receive letters from a depressed, rebellious (and also unnamed) 19-year-old. Trapped at home in Scarsdale for the summer, boxed in by her callous suburban parents, she acts out the turmoil and anomie of nascent adulthood by embarking on a salacious affair with a 12-year-old male neighbor. Her voice emerges in short, quizzical letters to the narrator. But, as refracted through his self-consciously mannered, feverish and puerile imagination, it's impossible to tell where she ends and he begins: her precocious erotic acrobatics resemble his rough jailhouse sex; her raunchy paeans to pubescent flesh echo his carnal obsessions. Her letters also prompt the narrator to remember his own abuse by his mother and his gruesome murder of Alice Sommerfield, a 12-year-old who, he claims, seduced him. With its allusions to Lolita and Lewis Carroll, this is a lurid but weirdly arch page-turner that may prove too unsavory for all but the most jaded readers. Author tour. (Mar.)
In this deeply disturbing novel, Homes (In a Country of Mothers, LJ 8/93) seems to be attempting to create as repulsive a protagonist as possible-a nameless pedophile serving his 23rd year at Sing Sing. Alongside his narrative is the tale of a 19-year-old college coed obsessed by a preteen boy. A large part of the novel centers on the half-real, half-imagined ties that develop between the convict and the college student as a result of her increasingly graphic letters to him. The rest is a reminiscence of his affair with a 12-year-old seductress named Alice that ends in her gruesome murder. Deliberately shocking and confrontational, Homes's purpose seems to be to force the reader into a kind of Dostoevskian identification with the blackest and most perverse elements of human nature. An optional purchase for larger libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
The narrator of A.M. Homes' fourth book is an educated, unctuous, pathetic sex offender, deep in middle age, who was imprisoned 23 years earlier for the brutal murder of a little girl -- the "ended" Alice of the title. His latest parasitic correspondent is a sulky college girl with an unseemly fascination for a 12-year-old boy living down the street. She begins what amounts to an epistolary peep show, sending the prisoner chirpy letters outlining her summer of love ("Took Matt to Tower. Bought a falafel. Tennis date tomorrow. Can't wait! Did it in the blueberry patch."). Though he grumbles about her exclamation marks and imbecilic language, the letters supply the prisoner with just enough detail to allow him to cast his own vibrant fantasies.
It is those fantasies coupled with quotidian prison life, all of it throbbing with violence and melodrama, that are the unsavory meat of the book: imagining boiling his hands to heighten his sensitivity when molesting young girls; a breathless scab-eating session; the youngsters giving each other golden showers after a frolic in the sprinkler; the de rigueur remembered childhood sexual abuse and equally necessary prison rape scene; shooting the coed up the vagina with a BB gun. The list goes on, ad nauseam.
Fueled by his weeks of imaginings, the prisoner moves toward his appearance before the prison board and his impending release. Like Freddie limping back to Elm Street, he has plans to visit the college girl who happens to live -- would you believe? -- in dead Alice's old neighborhood. But first, he offers a hollow rationale for his (and the author's) story: "I am no better or worse than you," he claims, dragging in that old universality-of-human-nature ploy. Too bad we can't put A. M. Homes in prison for writing a book this gratuitous. Or for her mistaken assumption that, by alliterating the prisoner's feverish reveries, she injects an element of poetry into the prisoner's plight. Lines like "piss-stained pages ... the crustation of evaporated excrete -- a conservator's conundrum, not the kind of compilation collectors would kvell over" should land anyone in jail. --Salon
The unnamed narrator, identified only as the imprisoned molester and killer of a girl named Alice, corresponds gleefully with a young woman who molests boys who are younger still. These two imaginative deviates share the details of their pederastic experiences, and he fantasizes about her predatory acts all the while...
Holme's characterization of the narrator is developed as she gradually reveals a carefully selected grab bag of narrative clues...Holme's strength, however, is her ability to spell out what many people feel but may never investigate: sexually manifestations of anger, anvy, humiliation, inadequacy, and regret.