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Trash Sex Magic
Jennifer Stevenson
Small Beer Press, 292 pages

Trash Sex Magic
Jennifer Stevenson
Jennifer Stevenson grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and earned her BA in English and music at the University of Iowa. She married theater technician Rich Bynum and spent six years in New Haven, where he went to Yale Drama School and she took her advanced degrees. She now lives in a suburb of Chicago, writing, doing the books for the family business, Hawkeye Scenic Studios.

Jennifer Stevenson Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

Raedawn Somershoe lives with her wild, outspoken mother in a trailer along the banks of the Fox River just outside of Chicago. Living next to them are the remaining members of the Gowdy family, the parents having vanished suddenly one night, leaving a drunken uncle named Cracker in charge. King Gowdy is back after ten years away, unhappy about his wild brothers and the even wilder nine-year-old twins named Mink and Ink who were left behind by one of Cracker's many girlfriends. He wants order, he wants his parents back, and he has an ambivalent attitude toward Raedawn, wishing to marry her and take her away from their crazy life there on the riverbank -- yet being afraid of her amazing sexual attraction.

The Somershoe women have apparently always been so earth-bound they sensed things no one else did, channeling this mysterious 'electric' through sex. They don't harm anyone. Sometimes they can help. But each has had a secret lover who is... not easily defined.

Meanwhile, their area is going to be condemned as soon as a developer can complete the purchase so that he can put up fancy riverside town homes. The work crew begins by hauling down a mighty tree, and prepares to clear the rest of the land while the rest of the legalities are straight-armed onto the residents. But this tree-cutting causes all kinds of unexpected reactions.

The story unfolds from that point, the narrative voice sliding in and out of everyone's point of view. Nothing is what it seems, any change is possible. The reader gradually becomes aware of one inescapable fact: when that tree was cut down some kind of power was let loose, and it needs to be grounded again or the river won't just rise, it will flood disastrously, causing the weather to go wild, and various life forms to metamorphose at frightening speed, breaking all the rules of biology. And the trailer residents know it.

I really enjoyed reading Trash Sex Magic. The narrative voice is sometimes omniscient, particularly when dealing with couples, but maintains a distance so one never finds a hidden narrator. The prose ranges from lyrical beauty to down home dialogue, the pacing sometimes whip-sharp, other times flitting and stopping like a chattering magpie. The story could be termed magical realism, though its bones are connected in a familiar structure, creating an interesting tension between the expectations of that structure and the open-ended possibilities of magical realism. Bottom line is, good books are about character, and I loved the trailer people and those who befriended them. And though I finished reading this one over a week ago, and have read three since, I find myself in quiet moments thinking about a certain small fox.

Copyright © 2004 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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