S. W. Le­icher, Twisted Road Publi­ca­tions (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $19.95 (312pp), 978-1-940189-22-2 GEN­ERAL FIC­TION

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Women’s Issues -

“Love is an earth­quake … It over­turns all sorts of as­sump­tions,” and from Acts of As­sump­tion‘s open­ing three-part def­i­ni­tion of as­sump­tion, S. W. Le­icher plays with its men­tal, phys­i­cal, and cul­tural forms, chron­i­cling what brings two women to­gether from very dif­fer­ent start­ing points un­til they’re wholly taken in by their love for one an­other.

Raised in New York City’s Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity, Ser­ach knows she’s caught be­tween the women’s roles she feels dis­con­nected from and her love for the rites re­served for men. The daugh­ter of a Colom­bian sin­gle mother, Paloma grew up in the same city, but be­tween her Catholic ed­u­ca­tion and latchkey home life, she’s be­come street-smart and tough.

When their paths con­verge in an on­col­ogy ward, the at­trac­tion is in­stant. Act­ing on that at­trac­tion changes them: Ser­ach moves to­ward au­ton­omy, and Paloma re­laxes into at­tach­ment. Nav­i­gat­ing their way into a re­la­tion­ship in­evitably means un­pack­ing the bag­gage of their re­spec­tive re­li­gious her­itages, child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences, sex­u­al­i­ties, and what it means to call each other fam­ily.

The novel is largely con­cerned with Ser­ach’s and Paloma’s per­sonal his­to­ries and their jour­ney to­ward each other, but it ends with a coda for Sh­muly, Ser­ach’s beloved only brother. Al­though there’s a per­sis­tent in­ter­est in the bonds of fam­ily, a fo­cus on Sh­muly in the clos­ing sec­tion gives him the fi­nal word in a way that re­casts and un­der­cuts the women’s sto­ries. Still, Ser­ach’s and Paloma’s voices are so im­mi­nently en­gag­ing and alive that wit­ness­ing their well-be­ing seems im­per­a­tive.

In its broad strokes, Acts of As­sump­tion traf­fics in fa­mil­iar ma­te­rial, cov­er­ing many of the ex­pected beats. But in one as­pect, the novel makes a rad­i­cal de­par­ture: it al­ways as­sumes Ser­ach’s and Paloma’s whole­ness, de­spite the toll of liv­ing against ex­pec­ta­tion, and their right to a happy end­ing—to­gether.

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