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Suggested Review Title:

When a Boy Listens to His Mom's Own Story

The Geography of Women
by Jack Fritscher
Palm Drive Publishing, 1998
ISBN 1-890834-25-4
142 pages, $9.95

A feel-good novel of human wisdom, The Geography of Women is a romantic coming-of-age comedy. Telling her story at the close of the 20th century, Laydia Spain O'Hara, the town innkeeper, untangles the past of 14 characters' lives tied together in a small southern Illinois town from the 1950s of Elvis to the Camelot of JFK. Her sassy tale of faces unmasking, and of conflicts resolving, is a human journey about inventing one's own true self and revealing secret love. Judge this book by its cover so evocative of strong yet vulnerable female power!

A storyteller in the spunky tradition of Huck Finn, and of Rita Mae Brown's Molly and Dorothy Allison's Bone, tomboy Laydia Spain spins a 3-way tale of three lively female characters who are so alive that the reader forgets the author exists. Laydia Spain has a "voice" heard on every page. Terrific writing makes the novel as vivid as a screenplay. Perhaps because Geography's author found "voice" in his own mother's storytelling, this inclusive comic novel transcends the downside of issues. Women especially may embrace this smart novel. Its appealing plot and colorful characters will please commute readers, airport travelers, and persons preferring fun storytelling novels for summer campsite or winter bedside.

In Geography's fast plot, the dark-skinned Jessarose takes off on the road to fame and fortune as a roadhouse blues singer. Jessarose, the emblem of love's best desires, defines the novel's celebration of new, alternative directions of love, family, and the human heart. "The human face is a limitless terrain that just pulls you right in...the geography of women is where nature itself takes course homeward bound, the long route or the short, the high road of the low." In her own personal geography, Laydia Spain joins the zany bleached Miss Lula-belle and the unforget table Jessarose to mirror the vast social changes sweeping American concepts of the way women live their lives. No wonder The Advocate has written: "Fritscher writes wonderful books full of compassion, humor, lyricism, and insight." The author deserves credit for pro-actively diversifying his "voice" throughout his long career. 4-STARS! Highly recommended. The Geography of Women, Jack Fritscher (with Virginia Day-Fritscher), Palm Drive Publishing, 1998, 142 pages, $9.95.

--Terry Solomon

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