Friday, October 14, 2005

"Symptomatic" by Danzy Senna

Senna's sophmore novel, Symptomatic, again addresses the plight of the post-modern tragic mulatto. Though I did not find it as complex as her debut novel, Caucasia (evidently also released as From Caucasia, With Love), it was gripping in its own right.

While the unnamed protagonist does not actively deny her black heritage, she does pass for white by omission of fact. When her undeclared race causes relationship problems with her live in lover, and older co-worker, Greta Hicks comes to her aid. As an act of gratitude, she develops a superficial alliance with the biracial and emotionally unstable Greta. Greta sees "she-who-must-not-be-named" as the soul mate that she's longed for, though the devotion is obviously not mutual. The only thing more unnerving than Greta's preoccupation with "her", is "her" developing preoccupation with Vera, the mystery woman whose apartment she is subletting.

Senna does a superb job of making the main character perceivable. I was well into the book before I realized that I didn't know her name. She also succeeded in making Greta realistically crazy.

I must say that I enjoyed the novel. If you're looking for a breakthrough novel, this ain't it. But if you're just in search of a basic study in human emotions, Symptomatic is as good a book as any...probably better than most.

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