San Francisco's edgy lesbian culture is the backdrop for this exploration of identity and secret lives. Alta Corral is a butch girl who is hung up on her first love, a girl nicknamed Shy. In her early twenties, Alta is still searching for Shy, whose reluctant visit home to her dying mother uncovers a hidden, harrowing past. Shy Girl explores the ...Read MoreSan Francisco's edgy lesbian culture is the backdrop for this exploration of identity and secret lives. Alta Corral is a butch girl who is hung up on her first love, a girl nicknamed Shy. In her early twenties, Alta is still searching for Shy, whose reluctant visit home to her dying mother uncovers a hidden, harrowing past. Shy Girl explores the dark territory of silence.Read Less
Publishers Weekly, 1999-04-26 The indelible experience of first love and the haunting presence of secrets that cannot be shared are the central issues in Starks probing, candid, often touching but somewhat overdesigned debut novel. At 23, butch lesbian Alta Corral still yearns over her former next-door neighbor and best friend, Sasha Shy Mallon. Six years ago, Shy suddenly fled their small Northern California town for Seattle. Alta, who was shocked at Shys departure, remains bitter because, despite the intense intimacy they had shared, Shy has never contacted her. Though Alta has become a prominent participant in the San Francisco lesbian community (she rides a motorcycle, has shaved her head, works in a tattoo parlor and brings many women to her bed), she has not been able to forget Shy, and when her mother calls to say that Shys mother is dying, Alta knows she must find her former lover and convince her to come home. When Shy does return, reluctantly, the womens reunion is both tender and contentious. Having decided not to identity herself as a lesbian, Shy has a boyfriend back in Seattlewhom she may or may not marryand a baby on the way. Alta is unable to accept Shys apparent sexual reversal, but what begins to take precedence over the unresolved troubles between them are the undisclosed secrets of the comatose Mrs. Mallon, who apparently fabricated her past. When Alta tries to interest Shy in uncovering her mothers true identity, she sees that her friend is an experienced accomplice at silence, at secrets, and she must find the answers alone. While the mystery of Mrs. Mallons background adds drama and suspense to the narrative, it also seems schematic and is not entirely convincing. Starks evocation of gay San Francisco will not be a novelty for readers of lesbian fiction. On the other hand, her refusal to let her characters mend the past tidily or sentimentally is impressive. At the end, the characters are wiser but not necessarily happier, and the ambiguities of their lives are unresolved. (June)
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