When Bee and her older brother Jacky were younger, they used to play a game in the woods near their grandparents' house. It was a war game in which Bee always played the wounded, and Jacky always played the savior: Bee "waited for Jacky to save her. Jacky called for more backup on his walkie-talkie, screamed out orders to the medics.... Then, after thrashing through the underbrush to get to where Bee had fallen, he dragged her to safety. He told her she would be all right, whatever wounds she had envisioned, however much blood had been lost."
Now it's 1975. Bee and Jacky are 14 and 17, and the family is preparing to return to the grandparents' home for a visit. But Jacky refuses to go, and Bee can't envision going back without her big brother. So the teens stay home alone for the weekend. After reminiscing about the time spent at her grandparents', Bee suddenly remembers that the scenes she and Jacky used to play out were actually much more than a game--part of the routine included Jacky lying on top of her and rocking back and forth. Bee's realization brings with it a flood of confusion and horror, all hauntingly displayed in the young girl's vivid hallucinations: "She saw a network of roots traveling across up and down [her back], balls and knots pushing up, hard and gnarled.... [She] ran her fingers into her hair, squeezed it at the roots until pine needles rained out and delicately fell around her feet, onto the bedspread."
Carolyn Coman, author of What Jamie Saw, a National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honor book, portrays Bee's conflicting emotions--anger, shame, love, fear, and arousal--with exquisite grace and sparse, incisive prose. The ending is far from that of a made-for-TV movie about incest--there is no tidy summary, no panoramic cut to the sun rising on the suburbs, but there is transformation here, and forgiveness, and light. --Brangien Davis
From Publishers Weekly
Coman's (What Jamie Saw) latest is the literary equivalent of a Diane Arbus photograph: it presents a sharp, shocking picture of pathology, but leaves it to the audience to imagine the world beyond the frame. Bee is 13 and her brother, Jacky, is 17. Their parents?an ineffectual mother and a father damaged both physically and mentally from serving in Vietnam?go visit the father's parents over Labor Day weekend, and Jacky and Bee are left alone. Jacky rapes a complicit Bee, who suddenly recalls years of similar molestation, evolving from their imaginary reenactments of their father's wartime exploits. As the weekend progresses, Bee begins to dissociate. She hallucinates; subconsciously or otherwise, she makes an overture to Jacky; she wanders outside naked. Coman's prose is as trenchant as ever, but she doesn't give readers much to go on. Bee's descent occurs so rapidly and violently that the impact verges on the sensationalistic. In both scope and length, the work seems closer to a short story than a novel. Like the subjects of Arbus photos, Bee and Jacky remain Other, figures to gape at but whose experience creates a gulf between them and the reader. Ages 12-up.
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