Now an adult, Bobbie has tried to keep the illicit relationship buried safely in the past. But when she discovers that Craig had similarly targeted other young girls, she returns home after a long absence with a singular purpose: to bring Craig to trial. Her efforts are greeted with hostility: June remembers things differently than Bobbie, and Craig insists he has done nothing wrong. As their traumatic history is relived in the courtroom, Bobbie and June must face the choices they made and try to make sense of the pain they endured while seeking justice at long last.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
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It was September, a weekday, a school night. She had painted her toenails, brushed on mascara, covered with matte foundation the few spots of acne that dotted her nose. She wore pale summer jeans, a shirt she’d ironed herself. She thought there might be dinner, but when Craig picked her up he drove straight to the motel, swinging into a parking space beside a delivery van that looked as though it had been parked there for a while. He turned off the ignition, then switched on the car’s inside light. He reached forward, fishing for his wallet, packed in among the cassettes in the glove compartment, also for his lighter. His T-shirt clung where the vinyl seats had made his back sweat. He looked at Bobbie as though he were deciding whether to bother asking, then said, “You got any money?”
“Not much,” she said.
He sighed. He rubbed his hand beneath his ball cap, red, white, and blue with a bicentennial celebration logo across the bill. “What about cigarettes?” he said. “Any of them?”
He was twenty-eight, well over six feet, while she was a little package, a ballerina-shaped girl with sun-bleached hair, newly fifteen. She watched as Craig pulled at the contents of the glove compartment, coming out with old envelopes, batteries, a bunch of menus for takeout along with important things—his car registration, his checkbook—chucking it all onto the floor. She thought if he was asking for cigarettes, it must mean he was out of rolling papers. He didn’t like cigarettes and hated when she smoked. But sometimes—like now—he’d ask her for a couple. He’d tap out the tobacco in one of her Marlboros, tear off the filter, add his own leaves, then twist the ends to make a joint.
“You keep telling me to quit,” she said.
“Never mind. I found something.”
Cold light shone from a motel sign perched on a steel post high above them, huge and bright, with garish round letters like something from a comic book. She’d driven past this motel before, seeing it from the passenger seat of her mother’s car, the sign and a strip of neon lighting the words vacancy or no vacancy. She didn’t know who stopped here or why. It was in the middle of the state. You’d think people would drive all the way to the city, D.C. or Baltimore, wherever they were heading. Stopping at a place like this had to be for purposes of exhaustion or drunkenness or another reason, like what they were doing here tonight.
“It’s thirty bucks. And we’re not even staying,” he said, a trace of disgust in his voice, perhaps to show what having her in his life cost him. Then he swung shut the car door and crossed the lot, his wallet bulging in his jeans pocket. She didn’t know what he kept in there that made the wallet so big. Not money, that was for sure. He’d buy her a Hostess Cherry Pie. He’d buy her a McDonald’s burger. He didn’t get her the things guys got their girlfriends, earrings or flowers. In her school, some of the girls wore liquid silver necklaces with nuggets of turquoise threaded at intervals, and he hadn’t bought her anything like that, though she didn’t know if she even wanted him to. Accepting a gift would mean something more, that she was his when she didn’t want to be his. She would have liked, however, to be someone’s.
She watched him disappear into the darkness beyond the streetlamps, and then reappear holding a key on a big wooden fob, the room number burned into the wood. He didn’t walk all the way back to the car, but stood on the cement path and told her to\ get out. She followed him through a narrow passage, past an ice machine and an exit sign. He had a long-strided, swaggering walk and she had to jog every few steps to keep up.
“I need to go home soon,” she said.
“I’ve got a test tomorrow.” Chemistry, the periodic table. She needed to have learned the shorthand symbols of the elements and, for some, their atomic weights.
He laughed. “I’ve got a test for you here first.”
The lamps in the room were on chains connected by thick eye bolts to the floor. The dark brown curtains, folded stiffly into exaggerated pleats, zigzagged across the windowsill. Had she looked behind the curtains, she’d have seen the air freshener in its coffin-shaped plastic case. An artificial floral scent lay heavy in the room, seeping into the dark brown wood and curtains, and the carpet with its geometric pattern.
She told him she needed the bathroom and he nodded, dropping onto the bed.
He said, “Hey, you look pretty,” and then watched her cross the room. “You listening? I just said you were pretty.”
“I heard you.”
“So what do you say when someone compliments you?”
“That’s better,” he said. “You’re welcome.”
Reading Group Guide
The questions that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Age of Consent, Marti Leimbach's unflinching novel about a sexual relationship between a grown man and a newly teenaged girl.
1. Had the crash never occurred, is it likely Bobbie could have extricated herself from the relationship with Craig?
2. What prevents Bobbie from telling her mother about Craig?
3. How does Bobby change during the 1978 scenes?
4. Why would June have missed or ignored the signs of what was going on between Craig and her daughter?
5. What part does threat play in the unfolding of events in the novel?
6. What do you think makes Bobbie trust Dan?
7. In what ways do Bobbie and Dan as teenagers want to protect one another?
8. Why does it take so long for Bobbie to take action against Craig?
9. How does the notion of shame, or the absence of it, permeate the novel?
10. What is the effect of Bobby's childhood experience on her present day self?