07 August 2008

33. Tan Lines

After reading the first line of J. J. Salem’s novel, Tan Lines,

There are eight thousand nerve endings in the clitoris, and this son of a bitch couldn’t find any of them. p. 3

I knew that the book might not be the pick-of-the-month for the church book club. Even so, if you can get past the sex, drugs, rock and roll, and often funnily foul language – this is a fantastic book.

Reading Tan Lines reminds me of a few things. First, if you are from the Northwest Florida area, the Pensacola Beach regulars are lovingly called “beach trash” which implies in all its Southerness that these folks are often socially flawed but endearing and loved none the less! This description might be used to describe many of the characters found in the novel. Second, upon reflection, Tan Lines reminded me of an updated Valley of the Dolls, published in the 1960s. In this Jacqueline Susann novel sex, drugs, name-dropping, and social climbing were the downfall of key characters.

So who are the primary characters in Tan Lines?

Lisa Pike – self-described “twenty-first-century fashionista feminist” p. 21 Lisa is a public persona with a personal life collapsing all around her.

Kellyanne Downey – an actress wannabe who has found herself as the kept mistress of a much older man with few acting prospects in her future.

Billie Shelton – an indie rock star whose star is quickly fading.

In spite of life choices which have lessened their connectedness, the three friends try to get together each summer and this summer it is in the Hamptons where they will mingle with the rich and famous. Unfortunately their choices this summer lead to betrayal, hurt, and even murder.

This book was delicious. My favorite thing was the author’s inclusion of many contemporary people and comments – from bands to name-dropping to current events. My favorite quote – talking about the glut of reality TV shows (which I must admit to watching) is “It doesn’t matter how fake things are. Haven’t you heard? Reality is the new substitute for truth.” p. 90

Once you get into the story of the summer in the Hamptons, it is easy to overlook language that might be offensive to some but may be used to set the tone for the book. I would advise you to at least give it a try. It might just turn out to be one of your “guilty pleasures” as suggested on the book cover. For a male author, J. J. Salem might have gotten these three strong females just right!

TITLE: Tan Lines
AUTHOR: J. J. Salem
PAGES: 306
TYPE: Fiction
RECOMMEND: I could not put this book down.

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