You know you're in for something from the very first sentence, "I have been stalking my husband's lover." You can tell that a poet wrote this book. The images she chooses are downright provocative. She describes the lover Yvonne's toothbrush, "I didn't come up with much but at least now I know what kind of toothpaste she uses. I bought it. And a toothbrush the same color as hers. Green with those little silver sparkles. The kind that tapers at the tip to fit easily into your mouth. I like it better than the kind I've been using. The square kind." That sets up this crazy opposition and emulation, and in a playful, sexual way. Also: this book reeks of sex.
Donna (I can call her Donna because I studied with her about 20 years (!) ago) has that poet's way of observing an experience or state of being that you never thought about, but once it's pointed out you see a universality to it, and that makes it important, even poignant. The narrator, Terry Spero watches a girl skating at Rockefeller Center and intuits that the girl will always remember that little moment. I have little snatches of moments like that in my memory.
The novel contains one poem snippet that captures the essence of Terry's condition:
I should have known
the way you loved
to fuck me in the ass
that I would end
up on my knees,
if only from exhaustion.
It's all behind me now.
I have always knelt
to the wrong gods.
In addition to being in an adulterous marriage, Terry is Catholic--not in a goes-to-church way, but in that she went to Catholic school and learned, not to love Jesus, but to live with and even crave guilt, shame, obedience and punishment. She's also the older sister of twins, so you know she's got to have feelings about being left out and replaced. She's always out of place anyway, the only one in her working class Brooklyn family who left the borough, who is a college professor married to a Soho art gallery owner. Maybe that's why she's so threatened by Yvonne, who, like her, teaches poetry and resembles Terry physically.
Yvonne is the real deal, and Terry isn't always easy to be with. Unfortunately her husband is kind of a jerk when Terry begins to really lose it. Because Donna immerses you in Terry's crazy, and the rationale behind it, you might be as surprised as Terry when the thing that you've been expecting and dreading finally happens.