Gwendolyn Griffin, 25, has been putting herself through graduate school, and her job as a stripper was her way of paying for it. Living with Leo, the boyish man she had fallen in love with a few years before, she is now beginning to question her choice, as his perpetually stoned state leaves him no closer to his dreams as a musician and has put her in charge of paying the bills and keeping a tenuous grip on reality. A neighbor, a former nightclub crooner named Count Valiant, is slowly disappearing before their eyes as death marches toward him.
In Further Out Than You Thought: A Novel, we watch the slow crumbling of their dreams as they try to move forward, even while sliding backward. Then, on one explosive day as riots break out throughout the city after the Rodney King verdicts, we see events become a catalyst for change.
Poised to make a big decision about their futures, they take drastic actions. Will fleeing the city for an idyllic journey to Mexico help them find a new perspective? What will happen to them there that will put Gwendolyn’s choices in sharper focus? How will the trip clarify things between them all?
A dark, gritty story with poetic language that softens the harsh glare of their lives, I was totally engaged with what would happen to them, but mostly I connected with Gwendolyn, whose persona at the strip club is “Stevie.” Her narrative revealed much about her and her challenges and even as I questioned her choices, I could also understand how life sometimes throws curves that make logic and rational thought go out the window. By the end, I was rooting for her, even as I suspected that none of her future choices would be easy. This is not a book for those turned off by explicit sex and the harsh realities of lives gone wrong, but for those who do take it on, there is an opportunity to see how the downside of life can have rooting value. For me, this one earned four stars.