Publisher: Vanilla Heart Publishing
What happens when a 31-year-old straight woman falls in love with a lesbian? It’s 1993, and Gwen Sullivan is agitated. She’s been married and divorced and is now living with her scientist boyfriend who loses himself in dark moods. Her job at a tutoring center and her work on the Bill Clinton-for-President campaign leave her vaguely dissatisfied. She hopes taking a night class in poetry might help. In the poetry class, the allure of two lesbians takes her by surprise. She can’t get them out of her mind. This prompts her to question who she is and who she wants to be. Soon, Gwen cannot deny her intense attraction to one of the women, Jamie. The feeling is mutual, but Jamie, too, is in a long-term relationship – with a woman minister. As Jamie and Gwen become more and more entwined, Gwen must ask herself who she is and what she wants from life. She begins to see gender, sex and sexuality differently. And as she feels compelled to confess her love for Jamie to her women friends, she is continually surprised by their complex reactions. This leads her to make one of the most important decisions of her life.
[Originally posted on Amazon 12/8/10]
I stumbled over this book accidentally on Amazon and honestly wasn’t expecting too much when I decided to buy and read it. It was inexpensive, so it seemed worth taking a chance on it. I’m really glad I did!
The story is told in first person. Gwen is a thirty-one-year old woman who has kinda been drifting through life, just latching on to things when they come her way. She’s in a longterm relationship with a man who seems entirely unsuited to her and working a job she doesn’t particularly like, but she doesn’t really appear to be seriously thinking of doing anything to change any of that. All this changes when she takes a poetry class and becomes intrigued with one of her classmates, who is a lesbian.
The real strength of this book is Evans’s writing. The story, a straight woman confronting being attracted to another woman for the first time, has been told before in many ways. So in that respect there’s nothing unique here. What is unique is how Evans tells the story and the language she uses. Gwen’s excitement over poetry is palpable and Evans’s prose is quite poetic and enchanting. (I’m not into poetry personally, but Evans easily made me understand why Gwen is.)
Evans has a deft touch with characterization also. Even characters who only appear once or a few times are vivid. Where I thought her skill in this regard really shone was in regards to Gwen’s boyfriend, Daniel. He’s a very closed up person and though it’s not stated, I’d guess he suffers from depression. It’s possible that he came across as unsympathetic to other readers, but I empathized with him a great deal. It’s not that he’s a bad person so much as he doesn’t realize how unsuitable he is for being in that sort of a relationship, especially with a person like Gwen. I believe this was Evans’s intent in how she wrote him.
About the only weakness I can think of is that the pacing seems a bit uneven at times. Sometimes it felt like things dragged a bit here and there, or we were a little too wrapped up in Gwen’s mental musings at the expense of new events unfolding. But this is a fairly minor criticism for what is otherwise a very good book.
Cynn Chadwick in the product page states that, “Kate Evans explores not so much a coming of age story as a coming to terms story.” I think that’s an excellent way to sum up this book. Here’s a passage from Complementary Colors that I highlighted in my Kindle:
But here I was, right on the edge of something. My inside life and my outside life each had one foot on different continental plates. An earthquake seemed inevitable.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-written book about a woman’s internal struggles with trying to make sense of her life. Especially readers who enjoy books about relationships between women, both friendship and romantic.
Kindle Note: This ebook is from a small publisher so the formatting is pretty simplistic, but there are few errors.