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Open Me

Review

Open Me

Lisa Locascio’s debut novel, OPEN ME, is sure to draw comparisons with many tales of sexual awakenings. Some of those, from Kate Chopin’s THE AWAKENING to Judy Blume’s FOREVER, will be warranted. Yet Locascio’s story stands alone in its voice, tone and detail. And the narrator, Roxana Olsen, feels like a character both universal and of the moment.

First inspired by her childhood best friend, Sylvie, to dream of visiting Paris, Roxana, having just graduated from high school, is finally packed and ready to go. But just before she leaves, she learns that while Sylvie is still on track for their dream trip, the tour group has re-routed her to Denmark. Roxana decides to go, despite her reservations, and resolves not to tell her parents about the change of plans. She arrives in Copenhagen, already fighting jet lag, and is met at the airport by a blue-eyed Dane named Søren Holmsgaard. He is a flustered, barely competent grad student writing a dissertation about American literature, working for the tour company, and Roxana is immediately drawn to him.

"...a captivating tale that asks readers to unblinkingly see Roxana Olsen as she grapples with her own image, desires and needs."

Their affair begins almost right away. In just days, Roxana has abandoned her planned trip to go with Søren to Farsø so that he can work on his dissertation with fewer distractions. While not strictly a prisoner in Søren’s uncle’s stark apartment, Roxana finds her freedom limited and her intense physical relationship increasingly unsatisfactory. When she begins to venture out into town on her own, she meets Zlatan, a Bosnian refugee who resettled many years ago in Denmark. As with Søren, there is a quick attraction between the two, and they become lovers.

OPEN ME is a thoroughly sexual novel, and there are several important pairings and connections presented. Eighteen-year-old Roxana is defining herself as a young woman. First, she must move away from her long-time best friend and distance herself from her parents. These separations, symbolized by her trip to Denmark but already taking place before she leaves home, are important and honestly rendered by Locascio. Both Søren and Zlatan, who vie for her attention as they compete for resources and recognition in their town and in their society, represent transformation for Roxana, providing her with affirmation of worth and allure.

While in Denmark, and prompted by her entanglements with the two men, Roxana reflects on her own identity and begins to carve out an autonomy --- sexual, personal, intellectual and emotional. It is this connection, Roxana to her own self, that is at the heart of OPEN ME, though it may be too easily overlooked by the reader who only cares to notice the salacious details. Roxana returns home, but altered by her experiences and most essentially by the self-awareness that those experiences have brought her.

Locascio’s book is frank, graphic and confident, threaded finely with sociopolitical commentary. The characters are not always easy to feel close to; there remains a distance between them and the reader that sometimes prevents affinity. Still, Locascio deftly handles her tricky, often uncomfortable and compelling story. Stylistically, the novel is bold and straightforward, even as the emotional and physical aspects are richly layered. OPEN ME is a captivating tale that asks readers to unblinkingly see Roxana Olsen as she grapples with her own image, desires and needs.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on August 10, 2018

Open Me
by Lisa Locascio

  • Publication Date: August 7, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802128076
  • ISBN-13: 9780802128072