Review: The Art of Peeling an Orange, Victoria Avilan

 

That very day I fell in love with you, I asked why you wrote alternate endings. You said that reality is cruel and that fiction should be truth, but also an escape. You said that if a writer is considered God, she should be a benevolent one.

 

Carly Rosen is nothing, if not distraught.  As she sits in a dark church, mourning the death of her best friend and fiancé, she cannot ignore the woman delivering his eulogy. Anna Garibaldi is a master of arts in the public eye and Greg’s grieving widow.  Though she despises this stranger, this woman who stole Greg away and allowed him to die, Carly loses herself in the life of Garibaldi.  She stops painting and stops contacting her family and friends.  In doing so, Carly uncovers some of the most well-kept secrets of Garibaldi’s past and learns a little about herself as well.  Perhaps most importantly, she discovers that with time and the right support, she is able to cope with love and loss.   

As I opened my copy of The Art of Peeling an Orange, I couldn’t help feeling a little hesitant.  Romance is not typically my genre of choice, so I didn’t know what to expect from an Adult Fiction novel.  Nonetheless, my eye was drawn to Victoria Avilan’s vibrant cover and clearly symbolic title.  Who (or what) is the orange? All I knew was that whatever was about to happen, the story was going to get delightfully messy.  I suggest this book to readers who enjoy LBGTQA+ and Adult Fiction with splashes of Erotica.

What I like most about this book is the way Avilan writes sexuality into her plot. She does not alienate or insult her audience by writing from a heteronormative standpoint. She does not spend pages explaining a character’s sexual preferences and successfully avoids falling into a “coming out” storyline. As a disclaimer: the “coming out” story is important, especially for audiences who are struggling to discuss or even claim their own sexuality, but “coming out” is not an LGBTQA+ person’s only story. (Just as a character who happens to be African American has more to share with the world than their experience with race.)  We need more books like Avilan’s  because they feature sexually fluid characters who are struggling with love and loss in the volume and fashion we’ve previously seen from books which feature heterosexual characters.

I have just a few qualms with this text. In terms of literary content, I didn’t agree with the frequent and blatant references to Hades. I think the land and/or god of the dead is useful in order to convey themes of grief, anger, and loss; however, sometimes the image feels forced.  I think “Hades” makes sense in an internal conversation for Carly because otherwise, it’s as if all the characters are speaking to each other in metaphor.  Also, the word “musk” is used 29 times and is sometimes used multiple times in the same section or chapter.  I suggest replacing the word here and there with others such as “scent,” “perfume,” or fragrance.  In terms of grammar, I only spotted one typo. (On page 62, the word “crank” should be “prank.”)

All things considered, I give The Art of Peeling an Orange 4 out of 5 stars.  

 

Avilan, Victoria. The Art of Peeling an Orange. Shaggy Dog Stories, 2015. Kindle file.

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