REVIEW - AND SHE WAS

Dyson, Cindy, And She Was. William Morrow. 287 pages. $24.95.

Brandy is not a respectable young woman. She’s a cocktail waitress, usually in crummy bars, who is drifting through life like the foam on a beer, but turns out to have as many layers as a Grasshopper cocktail. This novel traces her journey to Unalaska and what happens there.

The author attempts to weave the story with some traditional Aleut women during the early Russian occupation. Since she lists some real authorities as guides to this period, we can only assume Dyson ignored their advice as not dramatic enough.

Whatever, it’s hard to find the parallel between ancient Aleut women breaking hunting taboos in order to feed their children and Brandy’s slow progress in finding herself.

Speaking as Brandy’s analyst, I would say she has real trouble distinguishing herself from her mother, apparently a woman from the oldest profession who raised her daughter to follow the trade. This seems a shaky plot-line, but gives Brandy some steamy scenes with different men. The one she follows to Unalaska appears to be a decent sort, but he’s conveniently gone commercial fishing for most of the book. His absence gives Brandy lots of time to meet men and work in a rowdy bar owned by an eccentric couple who might well truly exist, this being Alaska.

She also makes some friends, in particular some Aleut women who have inherited their ancestors’ sins, although they don’t go sea hunting any more.

It’s a bit confusing, but while Brandy is being forced to confront her aimless life, she recalls visiting her alcoholic father. He’s living in a car with his large, ugly dog in a junkyard owned by friendly folks. The reader gets a compressed history of the, to put it delicately, unhappy marriage, that produced Brandy. Exactly why she would tell all to a woman she met that afternoon, we do not know.

In fact, there are lots of things we don ‘t know. Why does Brandy know Latin and Roman history? Why does she misrepresent Alaska history? How do the Aleut women learn Brandy knows their secret? Does she? Do we care?

Hop to an unexpected happy ending, as though the author had become bored with the whole enterprise.

In summation, an apt analogy for much of this book can be found in the well-written, as much of the book is, piece on the tsunami alert. It comes in on the radio and a good portion of the town heads for a hill. There Brandy looks around. “I ran straight to the edge of the mound overlooking the bay. It was steep here, sliced into cliff eons ago when the ocean had been braver.” The crowd had brought booze and food and a fine party ensued. After a while people left. Nothing happened - the alert was cancelled.

Keep writing, Ms. Dyson, but get your plot straight first.

D. L.

 

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