Kinflicks, Lisa Alther’s first published novel, is a funny, realistic account of a young woman growing up in the 1960’s and of her struggle to come to terms with her mother’s approaching death. Virginia (Ginny) Babcock’s story is told in chapters which alternate between her own narrative of her growing up and third-person narrations of the present (about 1974) in which she returns to her Tennessee home to be with her desperately ill mother. In both story lines, the emphasis is on Ginny’s attempts to define herself sexually and as a member of a family. Neither struggle concludes with any final definition.
Ginny rejects her parents when she is a teenager. She is repelled by her father’s rigidity and her mother’s fascination with death, and she is not close to either of her brothers. Her rebellion takes different forms, but once she is in high school her search for definition is largely in terms of her sexual behavior. Her mother tries to ignore Ginny’s activities, while the father is enraged by what he learns.
Ginny’s early efforts to find a sexual definition are based on her popularity in high school. She is the flag twirler with the marching band and the girlfriend of the school’s athletic hero. In a series of very funny scenes, they experiment with a variety of sexual activities, always stopping short of intercourse, but one side of Ginny’s nature rejects conventionality, and she loses her virginity with a...
(The entire section is 445 words.)