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Not the Swiss Family Robinson.

There are two concurrent movements in this novel, one that takes its narrator, Monica Robinson, away from all that she discovers she is not, the other drawing her towards whatever she has the potential to be. The title of Cooper's fourth novel refers humorously and sarcastically to ways in which her own Family Robinson is stranded - not on an island, but "as near to the middle of nowhere as you can get without adventures and shipwrecks." The closest town, What Cheer, is twenty miles away, and Monica is drawn there as Vera Cartwheel, in Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, was also drawn to What Cheer, lowa (a coincidence or homage?). Leaving her family's dilapidated farm for the more congenial home and emotional influence of her single, female, thirty-five-year-old English teacher, seventeen-year-old Monica learns that she is not, by birth, a "Robinson," nor a Midwestener, nor even an American, nor a heterosexual, and, thus, she finds a series of women who help her to recognize who she is and what she wishes to discover.

Part of the book's humor comes from the author's obvious use of character types: farm boys, rodeo personalities (in this case, a woman), a big-city, motorcycle-riding woman, and a repressed, nurturing schoolteacher, with whom Monica falls in love. Not the Swiss Family Robinson lacks complexity, but as the fast-paced, spirited story of a young lesbian that Cooper undoubtedly intended it to be, the novel makes for easy, engaging reading.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Fuchs, Miriam
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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