by Linda Legters
Publisher: Lethe Press (April 4, 2016)
Madena, upstate New York. Like any other small town, everybody keeps an eye on everybody else’s business without recognizing the secrets that connect them. The wheelchair-bound Celeste conjures up lives from what she sees and thinks she sees while peering through binoculars from her kitchen fan vent. Fifteen-year old Persephone trades sex for tattoo sessions that get her high and help her forget her girlfriend doesn’t love her. Theo was the high-school bad boy who couldn’t have the respectable girl he adored from afar, but now, sitting behind the counter of the last video store in town, worries wretchedly about the restless daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray her husband and son. Celeste, longing to connect, combines truth with fantasy, intervenes and interferes, finally understanding that things have gone terribly wrong and that she stands at the heart of disaster.
Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of the ties that bind and of those that dissolve.
“He came to realize – we all come to realize – our search isn’t for family, exactly, but for connection, connections that will keep us, so we won’t drown, won’t fly off, something that will connect us underneath.”
“There was nothing to be done about this DNA wiring, and it wasn’t saying anything bad about Persephone, but all he’d ever wanted was for his love to mean something.”
“Doug blanched. His hand fell to his side. Theo had read the word ‘blanched,’ how people blanch when they get startled. He had even looked it up… but it looked to Theo as if Doug’s blood had drained into his shoes.”
“Her moral compass was spinning and spinning, the way a needle does when challenged by too many magnets.”
I am more than a bit flummoxed by this intense and mesmerizing story. It was a bizarre and jagged puzzle with many oddly shaped and missing pieces. I was enthralled, frustrated, and entranced. The storyline weaved in and out among a variety of characters, which was at times rather confusing and unsettling. Yet it was delectably and intricately detailed with descriptions that placed me solidly within the scene as a voyeuristic spectator. I felt as if I knew the community well enough to identify the depicted residents and shopkeepers.
At the center of the story was a moody, broody, and disturbed teenaged girl named Persephone or Seph. Seph was unhappy, angry, uncommunicative, confused in her identity, and prone to brash, selfish, and self-destructive reactions in her acting out. Her thoughts were a jumble in her head and tended to flit about rather randomly. All the characters were more than a bit odd with some tipping over into bizarre, and with most also sporting twisted histories and buried secrets that were either denied, ignored, or reinvented – far too many devastatingly destructive secrets were never aired, when it would have prevented a world of hurt. There was a steady stream of malaise, underlying fear, and heaviness to the story with occasional bursts of fanciful, ethereal, and acid trip type musings. I was horrified yet fascinated by several characters and found the writing to be captivating, smart, highly observant, and eerily insightful. It squeezed my heart and then it wrecked me, but it garnered my attention and kept me thinking throughout, and I am the better for having read it. I’ll just need to even it out by finding a clever comedy for my next read.
About Linda Legters
Linda Legters was born in the far western reaches of New York State. She earned her B.A. from the University of New Hampshire and her MFA from Vermont College. She lived in Boston and New York before settling in Connecticut to raise her three sons. She currently teaches at Norwalk Community College and at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio.
Her short stories are about people from across the social spectrum and have appeared in literary journals such as Glimmer Train and Alaska Quarterly Review. She is passionate about art and music in addition to literature, and is at work on her second novel.
Find out more about Linda at her website.