Toothpick House by Lee Lynch – reviewed by Fran Walker

May 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment

“Toothpick House” by Lee Lynch. Naiad House, 1983.

Yes, it’s a romance. And yes, Fran I-hate-romance-novels Walker loved it. And no, you won’t pry my autographed copy out of my hands. Not even out of my cold, dead hands.

Annie is a blue-collar, hard-drinking, bar-hopping, butch taxi driver who lives in a rented falling-down beach cottage. Victoria is student at Yale who has never even been to a bar, let alone guessed she might be lesbian. They fall in love, but as they’re both aware, that doesn’t guarantee their HEA. Love means hard work and sacrifice and risk.

Much of the book deals with the changes they have to make in their lives and their mindsets to accomodate their relationship. The progress of their relationship, their love, and their sexual interactions are beautifully done, with the characters, as individuals and as a couple, so well drawn and likeable that the HEA is as believable as it is welcome.

As Annie’s and Victoria’s lives change, so do the lives of their circle of friends. A lesbian becomes a feminist. A feminist becomes an activist. An activist becomes a lesbian. Annie’s house, the “toothpick house”, becomes an allegory throughout the story for Annie’s relationship with Victoria, and for women’s roles in the world: fragile yet timeless, vulnerable yet committed. It’s subtle, yet beautifully done, and brought full circle in the story’s last line.

Though the plot is largely internal and could be classified as literary, the prose is accessible and easy to read. It’s not quite as lean and polished as Lynch’s current works, but it’s easy to see that she’s been a skilled writer since before I was born, and the quality of the prose in Toothpick House is far, far above most of what is published today.

The story is a telling illustration of what gay life was like decades ago. I didn’t feel it was outdated, though. Not only are the characters’ experiences still valid to the lesbian experience today, but the story is such a good history lesson and reminder of where we came from and why it’s so important to hang on to the progress and rights we’ve gained. I’d love to see this book re-issued and made available to a new generation (or two) of readers.


* Fran Walker is primarily a writer of short fiction. Her non-fiction book, Lavender Ink: Writing and Selling Lesbian Fiction, was recently published by Bedazzled Ink Books. She can be contacted at franwalker@ihug.co.nz

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Entry filed under: Authors, Lesbian lit, Reads. Tags: , .

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Evecho’s newsy bits

News, updates and links from the lesbian and publishing ‘verse that interest me, my current projects, keeping up with authors and sharing musings on middle-class life, gourmet adventures and comparisons between East/West perspectives. My opinions will likely be linearly logical and gayly bent, as they tend to be.