Trash, Sex, Magic Hardcover – Apr 1 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
There are some pretty weird things going on in the backwoods along the Fox River, just beyond Chicago's far-western suburbs. Twenty-four-year old Raedawn Somershoe and her mom Gelia are trailer trash, women of ill repute, who have worked their sexual wiles on many men in nearby Berne, Ill., not to mention any number of truckers and passing strangers. They live just outside of town with a variety of ill-sorted, half-feral family members and lovers and are mostly content with life. Then a corrupt developer decides that he wants their riverside property as the site for posh new townhouses and he won't take no for an answer. This turns out to be a mistake because the Somershoes have a powerful sexual magic, magic rooted deeply in the trees and the river, and the earth itself. Alexander Caebeau, a homesick Bahamian who runs heavy machinery for the construction company building the townhouses, quickly falls under Raedawn's spell. Then, after an enormous piece of construction machinery is found disassembled overnight, Caebeau is made night watchman and discovers that he has a marvelous and marvel-filled fate in store for him. Filled with oddly bent characters, lovingly detailed descriptions of the Illinois countryside, and just the right amount of magic, Stevenson's first novel is at once sexy, beautifully written and passing strange.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
They squat in colonies on the banks of a river around which surburbs sprawl: slutty women with unmatched outfits and out-of-fashion hair, whose wild, truant children of curiously invisible fathers are brought up to be equally slutty and unfashionable. Trailer trash. Their decrepit mobile homes stand between the river and a luxurious new housing development. But that's not all that stands between the developers and their dreamed-of riches. For Raedawn Somershoe and her mother, Gelia, aren't just trampy and looking for quickies from the construction workers (though they are that, too). They are as close as a modern suburb can come to real elemental powers-- women who make love with the trees and the earth, as well as pretty much any human males they encounter. Hardly what environmentalists mean when they say "tree-hugger," the Somershoes are powerful allies in the natural world's attempt to survive urbanization, and they use sex as their most potent tactic. Vivid, strange, pulsing with life, this is an unforgettable debut by a promising author. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is a sensuous and lyrical tale told about an odd and unusual group of characters who live along a river bank. The characters are never made fun of or exploited for the story, and instead of victims of society they are people who have made unconventional choices. They are given depth and a vibrancy that makes you think they live on still after the book is done. Her writing is such that you seem to be in their world - it is both very human, and very different.
The story is a love affair between the characters and nature, with sex often being their means of communicating and channeling the magic and the love. It is an integral part of the story, but not graphic or leering.
The story is told beautifully and contains a bit of mystery, pathos, horror and hope. Though there is a plot, the true focus is the characters and their love of the land and each other. A truly wonderful accomplishment.
Most of the reviews I read called Trash Sex Magic a love story, and it is that, but it's mostly the story of Raedawn Somershoe who, along with her mother, creates magic through sex. The giant tree that anchored the area and that housed the essence of Raedawn's friend/lover has been cut down by a developer, and now nature's going all haywire, particularly the river. What's needed is someone to take his place, and she finds him in Alexander Cabeau, whose grandmother sent him from the Bahamas.
A synopsis of the plot really does nothing to explain this story. I call it "literary fantasy," which is my way of trying to convey the feel of the book, but maybe a better term would be "poetic fantasy," because it affected me like poetry. Some of what happens in the book is "real," some is metaphor, and some is magic, and it's not always easy to tell which is which. In fact, I'm half convinced that the entire book is metaphor.
But I'm a more literal reader. I love fantasy and magic, but I like it to be grounded. For me, this is like trying to focus on one of those hidden picture paintings--I can do it, I can see the hidden picture, but it's hard work, and it gives me a headache. Just like with poetry, I got tired and frustrated trying to figure out what was real, and waiting for something to happen. And just like with good poetry, I can tell that this is a really well-written book, but I can't feel it myself. It's like looking at a pair of gorgeous shoes, but they're a size 6, and there's no way I can wear them. I know they're great shoes, but I can't have them.
So, 3.5 stars, which is what my personal enjoyment level of the book was: I liked it, but it's not a keeper for me. I used to think I was lacking or intellectually lazy because I don't enjoy poetry, or books like this, but now I think it's just a matter of brain wiring. Don't disillusion me, please.
In a strange world, stranger things begin to happen when land developers intrude on the riverbank. Rae's love is killed, the river goes wild, and a storm of activity drowns the area in magic and tension.
This novel is not for the faint of heart. Bold in premise, it does not shy away from subjects considered taboo by many people. For those brave enough to take the journey, for anyone who ever lived in a run-down trailer, those who were ever intimate with a few wild acres in the middle of humanity's business, or those who ever had an uncomfortable moment, this is a triumphant read.
For those who are easily offended, this is not for you. For those afraid to explore outside their zone of comfort, this is not for you. For those who don't want a story that will cling to their soul long after the book is shelved, this is not for you.
"Trash Sex Magic" gets five stars for bold creativity, skilled layering of characters' stories, and for the literary quality of the writing. Although a few scenes in the novel are mildly confusing for the average reader, Stevenson's work shows a brilliant insight into human nature.
"A real book is not one that's read, but one that reads us." -W. H. Auden (1907-1973)