her once-in-a-lifetime, summer of sex and self-discovery
“The love you feel is for yourself, Roxana. It is freedom speaking its joy to you.”
Forget Nancy Drew, Harlequin Dare and porn, every teenage girl should read Open Me – as well as every thirty-something woman who left too many things unsaid and undone back then. It’s for those who want to better understand the psychologically warping space between puberty and … oh, late twenties. You know, the years of, “If only I’d known then, what I know now.”
Debut author, Lisa Locascio, as narrator Roxana Olsen, a virgin-once-removed, walks us on the wild side, sharing sexual fantasies and exploits from the dark, raw underside of desire to the brilliant, unbridled upside of ecstasy. It’s a coming-out tale of a woman’s self-discovery of her right to sexual freedom. She mirror’s many of a young woman’s hidden wonders about her body and her desires and opens them up with two very different men. She’s vulnerable but not a victim.
At eighteen, American high school student, Roxana, who dreamed of a unforgettable summer in Paris, ends up with an unimaginable summer in Denmark. She meets 28-year-old Søren and has a fantasy fling, discovering with him the sexual pleasures of her body – “every night we went a little farther.” It has echos of Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal, especially when she muses: I found the ritual incredibly sexy, an illustration of his dark scenario. Me as confidante, corrupted student, unwitting victim. Søren as Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Rochester, Heathcliff. All those forbidding men I sought out, again and again, rereading hungrily.
It’s an opening up in every lustful, sensuous, mindful detail. Sometimes the detail seems a little too vividly ‘remembered’ for a young woman in the moment of carnal exploration and feels more like the observing writer’s memory. But in one summer, it fills a teen’s sex-thirsty curiosity and unearths the power of sex vested in a woman.
His shuddering, shaking breaths. ‘Power, I thought, power, power. My power.’
From political arguments to manipulation, the relationship with Søren drifts from sexual fantasy to argument to boredom and distance. She becomes confused, lost. Until she discovers a fantasy-filling alternative.
Below me, distantly, Søren began to orgasm. But I was high above, my head lost. I couldn’t see him.
Søren’s brooding pushes her to Zlatan, a Muslim refugee from Bosnia. In a vulnerable closeness, she rises from erotic, over-the-edge sex to what she thought might feel like love? That’s when he said, “The love you feel is for yourself, Roxana. It is freedom speaking its joy to you.”
“I’m scared that love isn’t real.”
She comes to realize that, “it was possible to be broken into all over again, to be made anew. So all my life I would open and close, and open and close again, and open again.” For Roxana, a summer of erotic, kinky sex – maybe a glimpse of ‘love” – pulls back the scrim on the beauty and power of a woman’s sexuality.
For a teenage reader, it might be indulgence in fantasy, for a thirty-something woman it might be reconstruction of missed opportunities. For all, it’s a freedom searching story of our inner, sexual selves.
Buy book at Indigo or Amazon.
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