Maureen Gibbon’s novel, Swimming Sweet Arrow, is something of a surprise. The first surprise might be the very graphic sex. But the second surprise will most definitely be how affecting the novel’s narrator, 18 year old Vangie is.
“When I was eighteen, I went parking with my boyfriend Del, my best friend June, and her boyfriend Del. What I mean is that June fucked Ray and I fucked Del in the same car, at the same time.”
Gibbon establishes Vangie’s voice- at once innocent and experienced- from the novel’s opening lines and from that moment on it’s hard to stop turning the pages as a year in Vangie’s life unfolds.
Vangie graduates from high school, moves in with Del, parties incessantly and slowly begins climbing out of her youth and into her adulthood. The success of the book is the way in which Gibbon writes Vangie, a character who never shies away from who she is or what she wants. And even when she makes horrible mistakes in judgment, Vangie never passes the buck. Despite the subject matter, which might be potentially too-graphic for some, Vangie’s search for meaning, for love, and for a place to belong is a thing of beauty.
1. Vangie says: Here is what they never tell you about being a girl.” What things do you wish someone had told you about being a girl?
2. What purpose does all the very graphic talk about sex serve in the novel?
3. What is the impetus for Vangie trying to get her life together.
4. There are several betrayals in the book- which is the most significant?
GOAT CHEESE AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO TARTINES
12 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, peeled , seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons julienned soft sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 tablespoon torn fresh basil
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons bottled black olive tapenade
8 oz soft mild goat cheese log, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Garnish: torn fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Brush 1 side of baguette slices with 2 tablespoons oil and arrange, oiled sides up, on a baking sheet. Toast bread in middle of oven until golden on top, about 7 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool. Leave oven on.
Stir together fresh and dried tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and 1/2 tablespoon oil.
Spread each toast with tapenade and top with a slice of goat cheese and a rounded teaspoon of tomato mixture. Arrange tartines on a baking sheet, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon oil.
Bake tartines in middle of oven until cheese is softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.
• Toasts may be made 2 days ahead, cooled completely, and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
• Tomato mixture may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Makes 6 hors d’oeuvres servings.