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.

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