The Boy by Lara Santoro (Little, Brown, and Co., 2013, 192pp.)
“She had the right to life, to an identity separate from that of her child. She had a right.”
A harrowing mother-daughter story, Lara Santoro’s short novel focuses on the distraught domestic life of Anna, a middle-aged single mom raising her young daughter in New Mexico. Once free to roam as she pleased, Anna is now stranded in midwestern Suburbia amidst pot-smoking nannies and hostile helicopter parents. Then the neighbor’s oldest son catches her eye. A mere youth of 20, Jack Strand is a shaggy college dropout—one that’s been watching her every move. Although she initially avoids her physical attraction to him, she inevitably succumbs to it. Sure, it’s a nice break in the monotonous drone of soccer practice and grocery shopping—but how will such an unhealthy relationship affect other aspects of her life? Most importantly, her relationship with her daughter?
This isn’t a romance by any means. Or, if it is, it’s an incredibly self-destructive one that the reader can tell is doomed from the start. Santoro’s prose is sparse and reminiscent of Annie Proulx, yet still manages to effuse enough humanity to affect the reader. I felt emotionally invested in Anna’s plight, even as her likability unravels as the story moves into its final moments. Occasionally humorous, and frequently moving, it’s an enjoyable jaunt into one woman’s psychology, albeit one with a real downer of an ending.
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