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.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown and Company|
|Edition description:||1ST BACK B|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)|
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"
What People are Saying About This
There. Now it is all written down. The broken, working-class families, the sex, drugs, dead-end lives and through it all the thing one really longs for: true decency. Luminous, simple, tough and written with stunning candor.
Maureen Gibbon has written an amazing novel of hard lives and hard sex. Her Vangie Raybuck is a riveting original who goes all the way and then some -- and who is able to look the truth in the eye without blinking. Swimming Sweet Arrow is unflinching in its honesty and integrity. A wonderful debut!
Swimming Sweet Arrow is an almost crazily courageous knock-out of a first novel, beautiful in its risky honesty.
I read it in one impassioned sitting. Maureen Gibbon has done something brave and intelligent-and erotic.
(Susanna Moore, author of In the Cut)