Title: Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (70s), Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the author of Daniel Isn’t Talking and Dying Young comes a shattering new novel, a page-turner about a sexual relationship between a grown man and a newly teenaged girl.
June was a young widow with a hopeless crush on Craig Kirtz, a disc jockey at a local rock station. To her surprise, the two struck up a friendship that seemed headed for something more. But it was June’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Bobbie, whom Craig had wanted all along. Bobbie thought her secret life—the sex, the drugs, the illicit relationship itself—could remain safely buried in the past. But thirty years later, when Bobbie discovers Craig’s attentions to her had been repeated with any number of girls, she returns home with one purpose in mind: to bring Craig to trial.
Her decision is greeted with mixed feelings. Some people think that bringing charges against someone for a crime committed so many years ago is unjustified. She’s called a “middle-aged woman with a vendetta.” She’s accused of waging war against her own family. But the past has a way of revealing itself, and some relationships lie dormant through the years, ready to stir to life at the
June remembers things differently from the way Bobbie does. Craig insists he has done nothing wrong. As their traumatic history is relived in the courtroom, Bobbie and June must come to terms with the choices they made and face the truth they have long refused to acknowledge. Told with warmth and compassion, this is a moving, deeply absorbing story of a family in crisis.
Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach is an unflinchingly honest novel about a woman who was sexually abused when she was a teenager who finally tries to get justice thirty years later. The subject matter is dark and disturbing yet the rambling, disjointed narrative does not do the topic justice.
In the late 70s, Bobbie became the victim of a sexual predator whom her mom later married. In 2008, Bobbie brings charges against him for the long ago crime. What should be a compelling court case in the present becomes muddled by extraneous details and a meandering storyline that flashes back and forth between past and present. The present day narrative is concise yet contains a few troubling coincidences that diminish the impact of the court case. There is evidence that could corroborate key facts in the case, yet somehow the prosecutor fails to see it. The courtroom scenes fall flat and the lack of clear resolution is a bit of a disappointment when taking into consideration the fact that a key witness has an epiphany that could turn the entire case around.
The flashbacks contain horrifying details of fifteen year old Bobbie’s abuse at the hands of twenty-eight year old disc jockey Craig Kirtz yet these details are often lost in tedious passages that do little to explain why Bobbie was drawn to a man with absolutely no charm or redeeming qualities. Bobbie’s scenes with Craig are harrowing and her fear and disgust are palpable. The fact she kept the relationship a secret from her mother is easy to understand since teenagers often remain silent in these types of situations. Bobbie’s shame later in life is realistic as is her underlying belief she is somehow responsible for what happened to her as a teenager. Bobbie’s explanation for the series of event that led up to her involvement with Craig occurs so late in the story that it almost feels like an afterthought.
However, what is most perplexing is why Bobbie’s mother, June, was so thoroughly enthralled with Craig in the first place. Yes, his job as a disc jockey made him a “celebrity” of sorts, but his behavior is so appalling that is impossible to understand what she found so appealing about him. And the fact that June was able to overlook and explain away certain details that should have been major red flags is mindboggling.
Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach does manage to end on positive note but overall, the novel is a bit of a disappointing read. While some parts of the story are unsatisfying, it is a gritty and realistic portrayal of how sexual predators groom their victims and coerce them into keeping silent about the inappropriate relationship.