Review: Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

[This is an excerpt from my review on Necessary Fiction 11/3/14. Read the entire review here.] just under 250 pages, Rainey Royal is an intense and at times disturbing story about a girl growing up in New York during the 1970s and ’80s. Her father, a famous jazz musician, allows his groupies the run of their brownstone, leaving Rainey constantly fighting for privacy and some degree of normalcy. Casual sex and permeable boundaries are the hallmarks of her home life. When the novel opens, her mother has been gone already a few years, having taken off to pursue her own vague dreams. Rainey, then, is left with a father who toys with her psychologically and emotionally and leaves her vulnerable to the advances of some of his more sketchy groupies.

The disorder in her home pushes Rainey to try to control her life at school. She’s the girl who makes other girls eat cigarettes and lick unknown substances; she, along with her best friend Tina, causes male teachers to squirm by making suggestive gestures; she uses her body and brittle fake-confidence to make shyer girls cower in corners. And yet, she ultimately must go home each day to Howard Royal and his free-wheeling musician friends, acolytes, and lovers.


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