This is a story about rape told from the viewpoint of the rapist’s little brother. It is horrific, apologetically honest, lacking easy answers, and the best thing I have ever read about what is popularly called Rape Culture on the wild and often irresponsible Internet.
Victoria Patterson is a ridiculously under-sung, under-appreciated novelist. She publishes with the independent press Counterpoint, giving her plenty of leeway to write in her unique voice without having to tone down or make pretty her take on current American culture.
The little brother, named after his father, acquired the nickname Even when he and his brother Gabe, just 15 months older, were working out their sibling rivalry as toddlers. The little brother wanted Gabe to have everything he had. Ms Patterson opens the novel innocently enough with the birth order, the personality differences, the soulless life in predominately white middle-class Cucamonga, CA. Then the divorce, Even moving with his dad to a nearby affluent Orange County community and Gabe staying with his mother. I wondered where she would go with this but having read her novels before, I knew it would be nowhere good.
So middle school, more jealousy between the brothers (Dad is super rich though not remotely ethical; Mom is needy, whiny, and just a bit off her rocker), high school, drugs, chicks, parties, drinking and lots of TV. Gabe likes to visit his dad and Even, which is where he holds his parties. One Fourth of July weekend the parties get over-the-top out of hand. Even is so freaked out, he anonymously turns over a video camera holding the evidence to the police. Now everyone is fucked, literally as well as figuratively. Even is torn between love, guilt, and justice.
A few words about the first person voice of Even: He is telling the tale from memory ten years later. Sometimes early in the story he sounds so clueless. Well, he was just a kid, then a preteen and teen. I found the author’s handling of these memories brilliant and sensitive to the emotions of this character at each age, giving the reader a sense of going through it with Even.
Love is the subversive element. Even loves his brother and his dad. He says he loves his mother but he doesn’t like being around her. He once had a grade school crush on the girl who was raped. The parents love their sons in admittedly weird ways but the moves they make are actually based on that love. Gabe might have thought his dad loved Even more, but Dad’s aggressive, expensive legal approach to exonerating Gabe gives the lie to that.
The victim is also a subversive element. We all know that rape victims are rarely believed and seen as guilty just by being there. This one did kind of “ask for it” but got way more than she asked for. Is asking for sex synonymous with asking for aggressive brutality? Does consent mean violence against a woman is condoned? As I said, no easy answers, but a ripping good summer read.