It looks like #fbf will become a thing here at 80 Books. This week, I take you back to the time I judged a book by its cover and was rewarded for it. Tampa by Alissa Nutting will not appeal to everyone; there are all kinds of triggers in this book because of the subject matter. Yet, I laugh to myself every time I think about that pink buttonhole.
It was the cover that drew me in. Never has a button hole looked so naughty.
Tampa is the story of Celeste Price, a married 26 year old junior high teacher from the eponymous city in Florida. She seems to have the perfect life – movie star looks, handsome police officer husband who comes from money, and a little red Corvette (baby, you’re much too fast).
But, Celeste has a very dirty secret. Think Elle Woods meets Humbert Humbert and you get Mrs. Price, who’s obsession with 14 year old boys drives her very existence. Written in first person, the reader is forced to be inside Celeste’s head as she stalks, manipulates, and catches her pray – teenager Jack Patrick – then succeeds to corrupt him with no remorse. Expect to be horrified and utterly fascinated by the machinations of this very sick woman. While you can never trust one thing from Humbert Humbert’s narration in Lolita, there is no denying the uncomfortable truths that Celeste reveals to us about her perversion. Even the truths that she refuses to see; the irony of her statements about Jack’s future relationships being forever colored (more like tainted) by their affair never seems to register with her. She’s too busy glorying in her triumphs and preparing for her next victim.
Most readers will not like the ending. This is a woman who watched a man die, plotted to kill her victim, and all to keep her secret, basically got off with a slap on the wrist. She would rather imagine these boys dying than to think of them growing up and maturing into men.Not once did she acknowledge that perhaps she deserved to go to jail or that her desires are in anyway wrong.
Nutting’s writing is intense. I like that she didn’t shy away from the graphic details of the sexual encounters, no matter how disturbing they are. Celeste wouldn’t see her actions as rape, so why should the reader? It was written at a pace that kept the tension building and the pages turning. My one issue is the character of Janet Feinlog, who seemed a direct foil for Celeste, but whose presence in the narrative didn’t seem to serve much purpose. I also wanted more of a reaction from Celeste’s husband, Ford, as well. Was he just the silly cuckold she made him out to be, or was his character warped in her mind?
Tampa gets 4 out of 5 stars. Read with caution.