Scarcity” was the first work I ever read by Kate Genet. It turns out she’s taken this short story and turned it into a full-length novel. And it’s a wonderful, compelling read.
In Don’t Go There (Kindle, $4.99), Genet excels in painting a picture of tough, guarded Teresa, a mid-twenties artist who spends her days hiding out in her shabby rural house in New Zealand, doing dog portraits.
Enter Scarcity, a local 17-year-old skinny blonde girl, who knows Teresa’s the only other lesbian in town. But what does she want, and how can Teresa get rid of this bothersome teenager?
The combination of chatty Scarcity and curmudgeonly Teresa seems a bit comical at first. It hardly seems likely that these quirky characters could get together.
But Genet draws deep here, and slowly the reader is drawn into the women’s faltering but steady steps toward intimacy. Scarcity (renamed Fliss by Teresa) is revealed to be a lovely, strong, innocent person who wants to be initiated and is vulnerable enough to reach out for a relationship. Teresa faces her own tendencies toward sex addiction and infidelity, and deals with her guilt over her behavior in a past relationship.
The book is quite darkly explicit in parts. There are terrible scenes of physical abuse, which I wondered if Fliss could even survive. And there are several sex scenes that take place outside of the main love story, where Teresa indulges herself, though they aren’t gratuitous. In this way, “Don’t Go There” is quite unorthodox and provocative. As another reviewer pointed out, there is also an amazing dog, whose protectiveness towards Fliss is a relief when we feel like Teresa is not paying enough attention to the girl because of her defensive walls…
Not at all rushed, this novel draws to an extremely satisfying conclusion.
What I didn’t add in my posted Amazon review is that because Fliss has never been with a woman, there is a real sense of significance in Fliss and Teresa’s coming together. Genet captures so well the seriousness of being sexual, and vulnerable, with someone for the first time when you are an adolescent.