(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

When Junie Moon, Warren, and Arthur decide to set up housekeeping together after being released from the hospital, it is because no one else wants them. This arrangement of convenience soon becomes a strong, three-way emotional reliance, however, when the three “freaks” move into a ramshackle house on the edge of town. Marjorie Kellogg’s short but richly textured first novel chronicles their brief life together as a trio of outcasts united against a cold and unaccepting world.

All three main characters are profoundly and permanently disabled. Junie Moon has had acid poured over her face and hands by a sexually disturbed assailant, leaving her hideously disfigured. Warren, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, has been unable to walk since being shot during a hunting trip in his adolescence. Only Arthur, though, faces the prospect of impending death. His terminal disease, which has baffled the countless doctors who have tried to diagnose it, makes it difficult for him to control his movements. His spasms are getting more severe, his seizures more frequent as the novel opens.

Approximately one-third of the novel takes place in the hospital where the three meet. Along with Minnie, Junie Moon’s terminally ill roommate, they provide the only color in the hospital’s bleak and depressing landscape. The patients’ lives are punctuated only by medicine calls from the authoritarian head nurse, Miss Oxford, and by Grand Rounds, a comic ritual during which overbearing doctors and sycophantic interns poke and prod the patients, asking predictable questions but never waiting for answers.

Only Binnie Farber, their sympathetic social worker, takes their communal living proposal seriously. The three seem unlikely housemates: They bicker constantly, the only thing they have in common being...

(The entire section is 744 words.)

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Fox, Paula. “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon: A Second Look.” The Horn Book Magazine 60 (August, 1984): 496-498. A re-examination of the novel.

Kozol, Jonathan. “Like Three Pawnshop Balls.” The New York Times Book Review 73 (October 6, 1968): 4. A prominent early review.

O’Connell, Shaun. Review in The Village Voice (February 6, 1969). O’Connell compares Kellogg to writers Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Conner in her treatment of “freaks” that questions the idea of “normal.” He comments on the stylistic problems with the novel which he calls “artful, but artificial.”

Price, Martin. Review in The Yale Review 58 (Spring, 1969). Describes Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon as “brilliantly clever” and observes the undercurrent of black comedy.

Stern, Daniel. “Love Among Life’s Wounded.” Life (October 4, 1968). Stern is impressed with the many dimensions of the characters and sees the novel as a reflection of the madness of contemporary life.

White, Edmund. “Victims of Love.” The New Republic 159 (November 23, 1968): 38. White finds the book superior to most of its contemporaries, but a bit overly crafted.