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Publisher's Summary

Stillwater College in Virginia, 1966. Freshman Peggy, an ingénue with literary pretensions, falls under the spell of Lee, a blue-blooded poet and professor, and they begin an ill-advised affair that results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. The couple are mismatched from the start - she's a lesbian, he's gay - but it takes a decade of emotional erosion before Peggy runs off with their three-year-old daughter, leaving their nine-year-old son behind.
Worried that Lee will have her committed for her erratic behavior, Peggy goes underground, adopting an African-American persona for her and her daughter. They squat in a house in an African-American settlement, eventually moving to a housing project where no one questions their true racial identities.
As Peggy and Lee's children grow up, they must contend with diverse emotional issues: Byrdie must deal with his father's compulsive honesty while Karen struggles with her mother's lies - she knows neither her real age nor that she is white nor that she has any other family.
Years later a minority scholarship lands Karen at the University of Virginia, where Byrdie is in his senior year. Eventually the long-lost sibling will go, setting off a series of misunderstandings and culminating in a comedic finale worthy of Shakespeare.
©2015 Nell Zink (P)2015 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By Julie W. Capell on 02-07-16

Misbegotten, mishandled, misfired novel

Between the ridiculous situation—seriously, why would a white person from the south in the mid-60’s decide to masquerade as a black person?? The character showed no motivation for this decision, nothing in her past to indicate that she was particularly enlightened about race. And then she lives for years in an abandoned house with no indoor plumbing or electricity, after having been a pampered wife of a college professor??

As if the completely unbelievable lifestyle choices of the main character weren’t bad enough, the novel goes off on tangents, giving copiously detailed descriptions of side characters that have little to no bearing on the plot, and telling weird side stories. Picaresque worked for Cervantes. Zink is no Cervantes. Cervantes knew what Don Quixote was about and had a through line, but Mislaid lurches from one thing to the next with no connectivity. One minute the protagonist is making money packaging drugs, then she’s suddenly trying to sell a play that she wrote. Then the boy next door is admiring her typewriter, then a second later the reader is treated to a bunch of weird details about the political views of that boy’s parents. This book never decides what it is about. Being accepted as a lesbian? Being a gay man? Being Black? Abortion? And the less said about the actual writing, the better. Here’s just one example of the dullness of the writing:

“That fear … served to mask a deeper fear, one she never feared consciously because it was unfearable.” Worst. Sentence. Ever.

I made myself read the entire thing because it was for my book club. And then, of course, I couldn’t make it to book club.

[I listened to this as an audio book performed by Cassandra Campbell. I found her reading uninspired.]

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13 of 13 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Lukas A. Kaiser on 06-02-15

Smart, Funny Novel

Excellent, fun and entertaining book whose depth creeps up on you in the best possible ways. Nell Zink is a brilliant writer who is smart enough to poke fun at her own brilliance.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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