In what at first appears to be a modern-day Lolita, this novel chronicles the summer that 16-year-old Katya Spivak nannies for a wealthy family in Bayhead Harbor, New Jersey, and her developing friendship with the elderly (and also wealthy) Marcus Kidder. Kidder, a one-time children’s book author and artist, courts the young Katya, convincing her to spend more and more time with him, and eventually model for a portrait (for cash, of course). Katya is particularly vulnerable to his doting overtures, not only because she’s a poor girl from South Jersey, but because she was also abandoned by her father at a young age and her mother is a manipulative alcoholic. Still, throughout the novel she wavers under Kidder’s affections, drawn to his money and power, but unsure of what he really wants. Are his intentions merely those of a lustful, perverted old man, or is it something more? While trying to figure it out, there are plenty of cringe-worthy scenes. If Katya referring to him as an “elderly lover” with “sweet and sour breath” doesn’t turn your stomach, Kidder forcing her to pose in silky red lingerie just might.
Angela Goethals shines portraying the confused innocence of a girl on the brink of adulthood, as well as easily transforming into the formal, elderly Kidder. Her only misstep in the narration is when she embodies the voice of Katya’s mother the white trash Jersey accent takes on more of a North Dakota vibe. Her talent for pacing builds the tension perfectly in the sexually-charged scenes when Katya and Kidder are alone and keep the listener on the hook for the duration of the novel: Kidder and his intentions remain an enigma for 23 chapters, thanks to the air of mystery Goethals is able to maintain. Colleen Oakley