Trespass by Valerie Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first shot fired in this multi-layered novel about battlefields and victims, is over a basket of rolls in an expensive New York restaurant. Chloe Dale has met her beloved only son Toby's new girlfriend, and his girlfriend's first crime is being named Salome Drago, her second, being foreign. Despite identifying as a liberal, and despite her endless reserves of love and devotion Chloe has for her husband and son, the woman still cannot shake the itchy hand of upper class prejudice as she appraises her son's latest paramour. To Chloe, Salome is a snobby, snotty, humorless trespasser.
Chloe's life at home is no easier. As she works on painting book illustrations at home, her mind spins ceaselessly over the intrusion of Salome into their lives, and also upon the ever increasing presence of a rabbit poacher on her extensive property. Confronting this poacher unsettles Chloe as she realizes he is a foreignor. In her mind this man is Lebanese, and a stereotypical Middle Eastern terrorist in her backyard.
The story-line involving the unraveling of Chloe's life to intruders might have been more sympathetic if Chloe weren't so damned shrill, racist, and insufferable. Despite all of her war protests, and declarations of empathy for the downtrodden, Chloe's America has no room for fiery, war refugees whose fathers call themselves, "The Oyster King."
The Dale's as a family unit represent the very essence of placid, saturated, liberal America. Sweet tempered Toby's desicion to bring the ascerbic Salome into his family's life brings with it a massive shock, forcing them to face the realities of the underprivileged, and the sorts of social situations they attend rallies and marches to bring light to. The worst trials the Dale family has seen up to this point seems to be having to deal with Toby's string of girlfriends who always seem to be unacceptable or eccentric.
By contrast the lives of the Drago family span war, the loss of a mother, and a brother, and a resettling and rebirth in the bayous of Louisiana. They live hard , scraping an earning as Oyster farmers with Salome's ambitions for good education and a good career being the pride and joy of her doting father, Branko. Salome is a daddy's girl, and Branko warmly welcomes Toby into his heart as his daughter's intended.
It would be giving too much away to discuss the events that spiral this story on its head. Every single character is forced to face a shattered new reality in the second half of this book. The reader is taken from the safety of affluent, suburban America, and the ideals of college politics, into a world of genocide, war, and rape. No punch is pulled in the recounting of brutal warfare against women, but the scenes never lapse into gratuitous explicit description.
The final act of the story faltered, winding down to a completely expected conclusion that seemed tacked on hastily, and offered no variety to Chloe's character. I can forgive it, however, because the powerful scenes and characters along the way to the end left me moved, and startled. This book is definitely worth the time to read and absorb.
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