‘Complicities’ by Alice Adams

Complicities by Alice Adams, 1995

The magic trick:

Illustrating how a young girl exists in a mysterious, troubled world of her own

We’re off to New Hampshire this week.

Specifically, we’re visiting a quiet New Hampshire farm, where a struggling painter and his wife have taken in a distant relation for the summer. This relation is a 13-year-old bulimic girl, and its her perspective on which the story hinges.

Jay and Mary, the owners of the farm, are doing their thing. They’re fine. They’re important to the story, obviously present. But it’s really Nan, the 13-year-old, who makes the story tick. Her secrets, reveled to the reader in a bit of backstory, are troubling. And as we see her perspectives shift as the story goes on, we see her priorities change, as well as her actions. It’s unsettling to see someone so young and ignorant dabbling in the world of adult ideas and relationships. Even more unsettling to see the adults in the story existing on a separate plane. They do not help her with her problems because they could never even know that her problems exist. And that’s quite a trick on Adams’s part.

The selection:

She is singing and laughing, embarrassed, but still her voice is rich and confident and sexy -oh, so sexy! Mary is wearing a new blue dress, or maybe it’s old. It is tight, some shiny material, stretched tight over those big breasts and hips. Nan, watching and listening (“- it’s so sweet when you stir it up – “) experiences an extreme and nameless, incomprehensible disturbance. She feels like throwing up, or screaming, or maybe just grabbing up her knees so that her body is a tight knit ball- and crying, crying there in her corner, in the semi-dark. Is this falling in love? has she fallen in love with Mary? She thinks it is more that she wants to be Mary. She wants to be out there in the light, with everyone laughing and clapping. She wants to be singing, and fat. Oh, how wildly, suddenly, she yearns for flesh, her own flesh. Oh, fat!


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