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MY FATHER’S GEISHA by James Gordon...

MY FATHER’S GEISHA by James Gordon Bennett (Washington Square Press: $8). Bennett’s promising first novel focuses on the problems of growing up as an “army brat” during the Cold War era. Teddy, the timid, sensitive narrator, watches his parents and sister battle for power and affection in a family that acts with an idiosyncratic mixture of discretion and vulgarity. The most impressive passages capture the narrator’s insecurities, and his desperate wish to heal the family’s hurts. Caught in a three-way tug-of-war for his loyalty, Teddy struggles to maintain his emotional balance, a struggle reflected in spells of physical disequilibrium: “I bend my knees and teeter-totter on the metal bar, knowing that if I tip forward too much or even just open my eyes for a moment, I’ll tumble over, and so I keep them closed, which seems the only way to keep my balance.” Although the beginning and end are well written, “Geisha” sags badly toward the middle, when Bennett introduces an improbably eccentric European psychiatrist as the sister’s husband.


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