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[whitespace] Reviews by Michelle Goldberg

book cover Preacher's Lake
By Lisa Vice
Dutton, 472 pages, $27.95

In her second novel, Preacher's Lake, Lisa Vice is obviously aiming for the kind of compassionate, rough-hewn grace that abounded in Dorothy Allison's Cavedweller. Sometimes, she almost succeeds. Set in a tiny town in Maine where, apparently, nearly half the residents are lesbians, Preacher's Lake follows a handful of broken-down people regrouping from their damaged lives and disappointed ambitions. They include Carole, a New York City artist mourning the death of her lover, Rita, a struggling single mother; Lizzy, an infertile woman desperate for a baby; and Slim, a childlike garbage-dump owner holding together a ragtag family in a beat-up trailer. This is a book crammed with issues: teen pregnancy, domestic violence among lesbians and the problems of biracial children, among others. But Vice skimps on plot; every time a conflict appears, it's resolved before it even gets rolling, as if Vice were shouting, "Oops! False alarm!" And if the writing is occasionally lovely, it's just as often clunky and sentimental. Still, Preacher's Lake will likely appeal to diehard fans of lesbian lit looking for a book to lull them to sleep on warm summer nights.

book cover Taming It Down
By Kim McLarin
William Morrow and Company, 312 pages, $24

Kim McLarin's Taming It Down is a fascinating, if occasionally shrill, novel about a strong, smart black woman trying to come to terms with her crushing racial anger and confusion. The book follows Hope Robinson, a reporter for a Philadelphia daily, as she navigates though poisonous racial politics at work and affairs with an insensitive white editor and an overbearing, Afrocentric black reporter. For a white girl like myself, the narrator's seething rage at white women can be a bit off-putting--at one point, she says, "If I started slapping every whitegirl I felt like smacking in the course of a day, I'd wind up in jail." But Taming It Down ultimately tells a much more nuanced story about race than such outbursts would suggest. Hope's fury is alternately righteous and terribly misguided, but it's almost always compelling.

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From the August 24-September 6, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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