In Naught’s Had, a complex and absorbing new romance from writer Vivian Gerow, a woman finds herself locked in a faulty relationship — one that she can’t seem to escape, no matter how hard she tries.
These are characters you won’t soon forget, dealing with issues that are unfortunately too prevalent in today’s society. The author does a masterful job of exploring the complex nuances of dysfunctional relationships through her often lyrical, almost stream-of-consciousness writing style.
The main characters, Kim and Alex, have problems communicating — except when they’re in bed. And that’s part of the problem, for Kim, anyway. She wants more from the relationship than just sex — and games. Definitely no more games.
This rich novel starts with Kim living largely inside her head and wondering why she can’t seem to be without Alex — even when he becomes abusive.
“It hurts so much, and I make it hurt more because there is something in me that believes I can love, and won’t let me believe that I can’t, and won’t let him stop me, even while he is stopping me, while he is holding my hands together so I can’t clap.”
The writer sends us back in time, to when the young couple meet for the first time, and Alex, then twenty, is potrayed as a sensitive, caring lover and friend to Kim, who hasn’t always made the best choices in boyfriends up to that point. But is his behavior true, or really just a carefully rehearsed act — one that Alex has perfected over the years?
In subsequent scenes — at parties, camping in the mountains, at his apartment — Alex becomes almost predatory in his efforts to talk Kim into having sex. He grows more and more manipulative, constantly saying and doing things that alternately draw Kim in — then send her away. Her confusion becomes painful — yet she keeps hoping things will work out.
At one point, he’s hospitalized after a car accident and, when he gets out, she decides it’s time they had a frank discussion about where their relationship is going.
“She still didn’t know what she was going to say, and he’d folded himself into his little ‘I-am-an-island-unto-myself’ posture . . . It was just as she’d expected. He wasn’t going to talk.”
Still later, she finds that Alex has given her a sexually transmitted disease — the result of the many other liaisons he indulges in when he’s not with Kim. Even after confronting him with this fact, however, he charms her into driving him to a clinic for treatment.
These are complex, well-drawn characters who throw rock and roll lyrics at each other in one moment, and verbal jabs the next. The author painstakingly paints a vivid word-portrait of just what it’s like to seek love, but never find it — to spend years hoping and praying that the person you are fatally attracted to will somehow, some day, love you back in the way you need.
Five stars to Naught’s Had — an ambitious debut from a promising writer.