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In My Sister's Country

Lise Haines

In My Sister's Country

Author:Lise Haines

By John Barry | Posted 5/1/2002

If a slightly older Lolita had a chance to write her own book, it would probably resemble In My Sister's Country. Lise Haines' quickly paced, tightly packed first novel plunges its protagonist, 17-year-old Molly, into a labyrinth of sexual games and power struggles. It's a world in which Molly is preyed on by older men, but she is neither helpless nor an ingénue. She emerges as the cool, collected player at the eye of the storm.

Haines demonstrates a finely tuned sense for what happens when instruments of control--erotic and psychic--become the basis for sexual relationships. The battle begins when Molly attracts the attention of Nathaniel, her older sister Amanda's boyfriend. Molly is ready and willing to see where this will lead, but she wants to do it by her own rules. Molly disguises herself (complete with Lolita-issue tinted sunglasses) so she can seduce Nathaniel. It's not clear whether she's invading her sister's world or being sucked in--and we can only guess whether Nathaniel is the dupe in this snowballing disaster.

The conflict broadens from the sisters' clash to the maelstrom of their freakishly dysfunctional family, presided over in absentia by their father, an omnipresent, almost mythical figure no less powerful because the sisters believe (perhaps mistakenly) that he is dead. Haines is more effective, however, when she focuses on the memorably petty demons Molly, Amanda, and Nathaniel--manipulators who turn on themselves, fall under their own spells, and are eventually confronted with what they have wrought. There's plenty of Freudian baggage here, but Haines uses quick, light prose and dry humor to successfully negotiate a journey through difficult emotional terrain.

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