by M.J. Rose
Published by Ballantine Books
304 pages, 2002
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
Sometimes in Flesh Tones, it's difficult to tell if we're dealing with a life-consuming obsession or an epic love story, viewed from reverse with the tragedy already unfolded. After a while, though, you realize it doesn't matter. The story is well enough told, the characters sufficiently real and their situations compellingly believable that the root of those characters' follies is of less concern than following the story itself.
But the female members of the jury will understand why I am numb. They will recognize me as just another woman who has loved a man too much. There are so many of us -- not proud that we put a man first, of the sacrifices we made or of the prices we paid -- but we know that if we had to do it over we would not do it any differently.
The evidence is damning: several prescriptions of Seconal filled in Genny's name. Her fingerprints are on the vials, as well as on the plastic bag found over Gabriel's head, with one of Genny's hairs caught on the twine used to bind it around his throat. But was it a murder of passion, as the prosecution contends? Or an assisted suicide as the defense insists? Or are there other, even less savory, scenarios possible? Ones that will involve Genny's whole family and the reputation of the art business along with them?
I'd built a life -- not admitting I'd built it on top of a shattered one. I'd learned my lesson about the kind of passion Gabriel and I had shared. No different than any narcotic, it brought both euphoria and destruction. I preferred living mid-range; no highs, no lows. And I swore that if he ever did come back to me, I'd keep my word and send him away.
Which, obviously, does not happen when, almost 20 years later Gabriel and Genny's father are in an accident. Though Genny's father is only mildly hurt, Gabriel's injuries are more serious and -- despite the vows she made to herself -- the two old lovers are reconnected and the flame easily rekindled.
Don't focus -- let your eyes roam around the canvas. Fill your eyes with the composition. Can you make it out? It's a night garden of blues, purples and greens; tangled confused and lonely. ... Gabriel had done more than get the flesh tones right -- the man's skin radiated vitality, the woman's shone with sensuality. She was silk, he was rope. You wanted to reach out and touch them. You understood why they were touching each other.
If you're thinking about books to read at the cottage or the beach this summer, Flesh Tones should go near the top of the pile. It's the type of novel most appropriate to beach basking because it's so hard to put down. | May 2002
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Blue Murder, will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.