Short Takes

Short takes: Book reviews, in brief

October 26, 2013 


Fringe Florida

Lynn Waddell, University Press of Florida, 266 pages

So, you think Florida is weird? You don’t know the half of it. In “Fringe Florida,” St. Petersburg journalist Lynn Waddell lifts up the rug we sweep the really strange stuff under.

Although a good bit of “Fringe Florida” is devoted to sexual fetishes and activities, with chapters on “King of Trampa” Joe Redner and swingers communities, Waddell looks at other fringes as well.

She attends a bacchanalian mud-bogging event, replete with more Confederate battle flags than a real Civil War battle. She visits the genteelly shabby spiritualist town of Cassadaga, where a walking tour includes a casual reference to “where someone saw a wood nymph.” She goes to the Holy Land Experience, a Christian theme park in Orlando, where tourists are greeted by a low-budget Nativity scene in which Mary is portrayed by what is clearly a blowup sex doll in a dress and veil. She hangs out with an all-female biker gang called Leather & Lace during the testosterone fest that is Daytona’s Bike Week. She visits Gulf Breeze, where for several years almost everybody in town saw UFOs regularly and they seem wistful that the spaceships have stopped appearing.

Waddell brings both a wry sense of humor and a journalist’s open mind to all the communities she visits. And that, really, is what she finds: communities. It seems that in Florida, no matter how strange your proclivities may be, there are people who share them, out there on the fringe.

Tampa Bay Times


The Edge of Normal

Carla Norton, Minotaur, 320 pages

Carla Norton’s enthralling “The Edge of Normal,” about a young woman rebuilding her life after being held by a kidnapper for years, offers more than a ripped-from-the-headlines pastiche.

This fiction debut delivers an emotional story of a woman fighting to regain her sense of self, to reach, at least, an edge of normal without falling. Reeve LeClaire, who was kidnaped when she was 12 and held for four years, doesn’t want people to see her only as a victim, but as a survivor.

Now 22 and living on her own in San Francisco, Reeve forces herself to deal with traumatic stress that will always linger because of her ordeal. She maintains a precise routine and sessions with a compassionate therapist who is an authority on “captivity syndrome.” Reeve also has become a self-educated expert on longtime captivity, having read every article and study published so she can better understand herself. She is willing to put her emotional well-being at risk when her therapist asks her help in treating Tilly Cavanaugh, a 13-year-old found a year after being kidnapped. Reeve may be able to help Tilly because of their shared experiences. While Reeve’s captor was caught, Tilly’s kidnapper is still a threat.


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