Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review of the Day: Leaving Brooklyn

At my law office, we have a word for 15-year-old girls who have a sexual relationship with their 37-year-old doctors – we call them “clients.” I spend my days suing child molesters and the institutions that allowed the abuse. So the fact that I could set aside my professional and personal outlook and be swept up in this novel is a testament to Lynn Sharon Schwartz’s literary gifts.

In Leaving Brooklyn, Schwartz spins a post-war coming-of-age story out of the heroine’s damaged eye. Audrey is legally blind in her right eye, a lazy eye prone to wander on its own. The eye gives Audrey a creative, imaginary way of seeing “behind” things, including ideas. Her eye is the center point for the story; it is also a metaphor for the inward gaze that perfectly captures the mind of a 15-year-old girl.

Audrey feels stifled by what she considers the narrow-mindedness of her Brooklyn neighborhood. She escapes Brooklyn, and ultimately her childhood, through a series of weekly sexual encounters with her Manhattan eye doctor.

Schwartz tells the story as a memoir that entwines the adult Audrey’s perceptions with the child’s. In moving between the two – and in recognizing the ambiguity inherent in memory and perception – she paints an accurately ephemeral portrait of Audrey as “Everywoman.”

Leaving Brooklyn by Lynn Sharon Schwartz was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. This super cool Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts edition has a new introduction by Ursula Hegi.

(If you would like your review posted here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


Vivienne said...

I know you managed to put aside the relationship part of the young girl and the doctor, but I do think I would struggle with this. I think it is having to young pre teens on my hands. You popped over to my blog yesterday, after I reveiwed Cold Comfort Farm. I would love for you to add my review and I shall do the same. Here is the link for mine.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds heartbreaking to me.

Rose City Reader said...

Vivienne -- It would be a hard book for a mother to read, I think. It is very good, but hard for mothers of teen daughters.

Thanks for the review link. I will add it.

Bermuda -- I realize that it does sound horrible, but it was actually a warm-hearted and even funny book. It was really very sweet. I think because the narrator is the adult heroine, so you realize that she turned out OK.

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