Monday, August 28, 2017

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

I started a novel a few weeks ago I was sure I would put down in a few pages: poor girl meets rich college boy and romance flares. The novel in question is White Fur, and I knew after not many pages I would be reading it clear through. The writing is gritty and glamorous, much like its heroine, Elise.

The boy in question, Jamey, is not only very rich, he is also handsome to the point of being beautiful. Jamey’s roommate’s girlfriend reacts to him as most women do. 
She’s scared, in a titillating sense, which is how most girls feel near Jamey. He’s not charming—it’s something weirder, more potent, dangerous. He’s so convincingly disconnected from his beauty that people look away, not wanting to be the one who tips him off with their gawking.
Elise is also arresting but not in a cute, well-dressed way. Instead wrapped in her white fur coat (thrift shop, and probably rabbit fur), she appears disdainful of the male attention directed her way.
Aficionados of sex see her in a crowd. Some guys stumble upon her and crudely realize their luck halfway into it. Some have no idea, and turn her out of bed as if they did what they’d come to do, not understanding they hadn’t even started. Those dudes smoked and hummed while they dressed and she felt sorrier for them than she felt for herself.  
Elise never separates things into day and night, rarely thinks about being a boy or girl, or alive or dead. Without division, there’s less work to do. She floats, free in a cheap and magic 
What Jamey goes for in Elise is her sense of freedom and her expansive knowledge of sex. Although he has been a very good student in the past, once he meets Elise his interest in school evaporates. His ivy league education he equates with his parents and their wealth, and all of it he feels as restriction. Still, when he first takes up with Elise he has no intention of inviting her into his family life, or even into his circle of friends. At first he thinks it’s just the sex.

Although the novel seems to borrow from earlier impossible romances: Romeo and Juliet,  or the star-crossed couple in Westside Story, Libiare brings in the real grit of city life in White Fur. Jamey’s attempts to escape from the pull of family by first giving up school, and then in a more desperate attempt by giving up his trust fund. Still, his family will not let him go, and he finally finds himself locked up in a psychiatric unit and given drugs that threaten to in fact throw him over the edge. 

As a reader of this novel, I was certain on some level that the romance would end, the family and the power of money would win out. And certainly the author is well aware of how power and money go together; she is also aware of the shallowness of the lives of trust-fund kids, and she displays it with great clarity in this rather long love-story.

In one scene when Elise leaves Jamey, and orphan that she is, he thinks he has no way of finding her, 
He think this whole thing looks like a prank. 
It always struck him as suspicious—how she showed up, the girl next door, and kept after him until he fell in love, this choosing between her and his family—it’s too biblical, too tragic, too concise a conundrum for a life as amoral as his. 
He’s never had to be moral. He falls into one of those crevices: a certain kid in a certain society in a certain generation where no decisions remain because his ancestors have finished every single thing within reach…he feels a revelation like adrenalin. If everything is already done, maybe I’m here to undo things.
Alas, things are not as easy to undo as he had thought, and the reach of his family is even wider than he had believed. 

But the family is not aware of the strength of Elise, of her cool contempt for their wealth. Even when the family essentially has him committed, since who, after all, gives up a trust fund and an easy life for a trashy girl in a rabbit coat, unless they are crazy? Elise finds a way into the private clinic and befriends some staff. In one of the most captivating scenes in the novel, she simply walks him out of his prison, and decides she will be able to bring him down from the drug dependency the clinic experience has brought on, and shelter him until they can escape for good.

An unlikely romance for sure, and it may test the credulity of some readers, but I found this to be a powerful and beautifully written book, and I could not help but hold out hope for the lovers. I’m not about to tell you how the story ends, but I hope you will pick up the novel and find out; you will be glad you did.

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