rev. of Blue Glass by Sandra Tyler

Issue #57
Spring 1992

Sandra Tyler's deadpan-lyrical, remarkably
accurate first novel,
Blue Glass, concerns the coming of age of Leslie, an only child of divorcing parents. Her father, a college English teacher, withdraws and finds another woman, leaving teenaged Leslie in a world as claustrophobically feminine as that of William Inge's
Picnic. While it is a world presumably of the 1980s, it gains little support or relief from feminist assertions. The social class is middle, suburban, and literate.

Leslie's primary role model is her mother, who tries to teach her the wonders of the everyday ("miracles . . . don't have to be rare," she says), and whose own power of imagination gives ultimate meaning to life, gives love, and lends the novel its title. "When I was pregnant," Leslie hears her mother confide to a friend, "I couldn't help seeing Leslie. She was in my mind's eye . . . Kind of . . . like blue glass. Blue beach glass you find, soft and milky and blue around the edges." Leslie by this point is rebellious and feels suffocated by the otherworldliness of her mother, but she's touched by this revelation, concluding, "There were things I didn't know about her. Things I might never know." Leslie discovers her own power to create metaphors as a child, and the first-person narration of the adult Leslie is exact and figurative.

Sex, repressed by the mother, also dawns as a power in Leslie, as she experiences her first love and loss of virginity. Then, in one of the novel's most powerful, subtly textured scenes, Leslie confronts the reality of her father's love for her. "Why don't you just come home?" she asks him. He replies, "Leslie, I can't," and at that moment, his separateness is wrenching: "A hope I hadn't even known was there collapsed inside me." Later, Leslie's mother takes up with a suitor, Leonard, who surreptitiously propositions
her, the daughter, and while this may seem more the stuff of an Electra complex than a credible development of plot, it pushes Leslie towards independence and resolves her relationship with her mother: "We'd become two women capable of attracting and being attracted to the same man. . . What we had now was more of an allegiance; we were two women faced with having no alternative but to redefine ourselves."

This is a rich and importantly won first novel, a mother-and-daughter story parallel in power and insight to Theodore Weesner's father-and-son classic,
The Car Thief.