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Lonely and bright, an only child brought up by parents less flush than her peers' parents, Rebecca turns to new-girl Alex like a flower to the sun. In ever-vernal 1960s Pasadena, opposites Rebecca and Alex become fast and fierce friends, stuck together like two ends of a battery. Their charge begins to weaken, however, when Alex's interest in theater summons her away to camp, all but fizzles in college when Rebecca would rather study biology than attempt to understand one of Alex's obscure performances, and is extinguished to near death when one dark moment leads Rebecca to make a fateful decision. Her best friend spurned and her dream of following medicine dashed in one fell swoop, Rebecca escapes restrictive southern California and the mother whose only wish for her is to marry well and starts anew. Before long, though, she and Alex reconnect, and the true nature and madness of their friendship unfurls. An impressive psychological drama, Sloss' first novel aptly brings to the fore the social issues that uniquely challenge her heroine.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Introverted, bookish Rebecca and flamboyant, dynamic Alexandra meet at age 14 and instantly become best friends. We follow them from high school through college and into marriage and motherhood, with social change from the late 1950s through the early 1970s as backdrop. Told from Rebecca's point of view, their volatile friendship is the almost exclusive focus of the narrative, as the two young women find their career ambitions constricted by social norms and expectations and settle for unsatisfying or unhappy marriages. The narrative structure is at times frustrating, as Rebecca reveals information very selectively. In the end, however, one discovers that this is by design, and earlier puzzles (including the true meaning of the novel's title) are made clear by the revelations of the book's final pages. More troubling is the character of Alexandra, who is so insufferably self-centered and overbearing that it's difficult to buy into Rebecca's attachment to her. VERDICT If Rebecca's relationship with the difficult Alexandra can be accepted, book clubs may find much to discuss regarding women's friendships, social class, and changes in women's options as a result of the feminist movement. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/12].-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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A smooth first-person narrative about two best friends who come of age in 1960s Pasadena marks Sloss's layered debut novel. Alex is beautiful, theatrical, and comes from wealth. Introspective, secretive, and brainy narrator Rebecca lives "house-poor" with her earnest father and beautiful, thrifty mother, who wants her daughter to have what she lost during the Depression. Once inseparable, the friends strike out on different paths at their college and a total break occurs after junior year. The incident, involving lies, alcohol, and some bad judgment, changes Rebecca's relationship with her parents as well. Stifled by early '60s sexism, she grows passive, marrying Paul, a genial, patrician New York lawyer. Despite achieving her mother's goals, her marriage is a sham and her small life revolves around her two sons and the letters she writes to Alex but never sends. Home for her mother's funeral, Rebecca reconnects with her one-time best friend, but she begins to see the insignificance of her life. Here the narrative accelerates as it builds toward the chaotic denouement. The story's hopeful end is tempered with the realization that, had the central characters been born a generation later, maybe their lives would have been better. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.