Thursday, June 6, 2019

Book 184: White Fur

"Jamey adores the shooting stars of her mind, the powdery galaxy of her thoughts. Her intelligence isn't organized the same way his is. She never finishes more than a few pages of a book, but loves to talk about what she read. She thinks in wild gardens, and his thoughts are espaliered into an introduction with a thesis, then supporting paragraphs, then a conclusion."

Dates read: October 22-25, 2017

Rating: 5/10

I didn't date in high school. Not that I didn't want to, there was just no one that I was interested in that was interested in me. It wasn't until my sophomore year in college that I had my first real relationship. Sean and I dated off and on for three years. It was very dramatic in that way that relationships between 19/20 year-olds can be...we broke up, we made up, we had big screaming fights, we were attached at the hip. He's a great person, and we're still casually friendly, but we were not at all a good match and that experience was a very good life lesson that passionate drama is not usually the basis for lasting harmony.

There's something about that age, though, just barely into adulthood, where it feels like if you aren't in some sort of constant crisis and don't have that dramatic intensity, that it's not really love. In Jardine Libaire's White Fur, Elise Perez and Jamey Hyde are both young adults, but have precious little else in common. Jamey is the scion of a prominent Northeastern banking family, in his junior year at Yale and drifting aimlessly towards his predetermined future working with his father, when Elise moves in next door. A textbook example of "rough around the edges", she's just out from the housing project where her single mother raised her and is constantly wearing the white fur jacket she traded for on the Greyhound. They couldn't be more different, but they're drawn to each other and quickly find themselves in a relationship that changes their lives forever.

After they've been together a few months in New Haven, Jamey's summer internship at Sotheby's pulls them into New York City and closer to Jamey's family orbit, which proves problematic. The Hydes are furious with him for dating so far below their expectations and try to engineer a breakup by cutting off Jamey's funding, but the couple soldiers on. After an old friend resurfaces and disaster strikes, though, a final showdown between Elise and her beloved's family for his heart and soul is inevitable.

This is the kind of novel that gets described as "gritty" and "raw", which actually means there's just a lot of non-prettified sex in it. That's the basis of Elise and Jamey's relationship, both when it's just starting out and after they've fallen in love: sex and lots of it. I'm not prudish about that kind of thing, but there's a point at which it starts to feel gratuitous...and this book went soaring past it. The ease of sexual freedom without worrying about STDs, and having venues for some kinkier hijinks, is one of the few ways in which I felt like this book really took advantage of its 1980s New York City setting, which was underplayed to the extent where I forgot it was supposed to be taking place in the 80s for large portions of its duration. Which isn't necessarily problematic in and of itself (I don't need a pop culture reference every three pages), but 80s NYC seems like a setting that could have really been played into in a way that Libaire just didn't.

I found Elise and Jamey (particularly the former) to be relatively well-drawn characters, and the narrative did make me root for them as a couple. The way Jamey is manipulated by virtually everyone in his life made it understandable that he'd fall so hard for Elise because she actually sees him as a person, and I enjoyed the way that Libaire made it clear that her interest in him has no root at all in his wealth the way that everyone assumes. But there were issues for me, particularly the ending, which I just found too easy. Libaire has a gift for prose, and I'll be keeping an eye out for her future work, but this didn't quite come together for me. If you like "gritty" stories or a good twist on a star-crossed lovers tale, you'll find something to enjoy here, otherwise maybe not.

One year ago, I was reading: Motherless Brooklyn

Two years ago, I was reading: In The Skin of a Lion

Three years ago, I was reading: The Name of the Rose

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