Chester Aaron Zumaya

Burnaby CA

ISBN 1554101271 $22.00 181 pp.

A sexual predator prowls the halls at St. Catharine’s, a Jesuit college. Suspicions are raised in the colelge newspaper, The Cross and Trumpet, regarding the administrative management and investigation of the affairs. Lead journalist, Eve Gallagher, get roughly woken up out of her boyfriend’s bed with the telephone’s ringing. Half-awake, she finds herself cutting through a chaotic scene outside Lovelace Hall, where she ought to have been sleeping. Had she been there, maybe things would have been different.

Guilt drives Eve Gallagher onto the story about her brutalized room-mate, Kirby Petrucci: the kid any parent would want for a daughter, the psuedo-sister who blends better in the family living-room without making the curtains flutter.

“Siamo tutt’una,” Kirby would growl, like a sultry Silvana Mangano. “The closest translation: I am, you aer me. A little Italian tobacco to put in your pipe and smoke. Don’t check the grammar with Miss Alioto. She’s from Sicily. She’s not Italian.” “Two peas in a pod,” her mother had marveled aloud of the two of them when Kirby visited Eve in Estrelita Point last summer. “One Pea,” Eve insisted. “Kirby doesn’t curse so much, Eve.” “I curse for the two of us, Momma. I curse, Kirby prays.” (p45)

Only the good, die young. Only the good, get ground into the ground. Only the good, turn the cheek to get it slapped and take the knife in the back.

Kirby, unconscious in a hospital room with tubes running in and out to provide life support. Kirby, her carbon copy, the better side of her life, had been viciously attacked. What if she had been there? In the place where she belonged, instead of warming Marc’s bed and getting called, Ice Cube. Kirby, Debby and Eve, the three chicks that hung together on the college newspaper in confrontation of male dominated world, of a Catholic controlled college where all the dirt got swept under the ratty carpet and rebellion subdued by Brother Julius in the administrative office. Eve, the wannabe journalist, models herself off a hard-bitten Molly Ivins and pretends to be the next Great Muckracker, if not Maureen Dowd, the winner of the prestigious Arbinger Award, but still not sharp enough to cut the edges of a daily newspaper. Perpetually stuck on herself like gum on a shoe, Eve wears out her heels running around, trying to be superwoman in outspoken rebellion to her conservative Catholic parents. If half the world prays, that’s reason enough to swear. Late on the road to maturity, Eve is suddenly confronted with mortality as Kirby struggles on the edge of life. Basic fundamentals of investigative journalism are brushed aside as Eve’s emotions fuel her angry rebellion against the college administration for reporting date-rape and emergency calls through the city crisis line.

Struggling through the aftermath of the attack of her room-mate, Eve lives in a surreal world of fantasy and terror, reawakening scenes from a traumatized childhood. Where reality and nightmare mingle, she can’t tell, as she struggles to fulfill the image she has projected of herself as a tough, up-and-coming investigative reporter. Death is nothing to fear. A loving God waits on the other side–it’s only this life and the shadows that haunt this world that fill our lives with terror.

Chestor Aaron is a Professor Emeritus of St. Mary’s College in California where he gained insight to social conflicts between students and administration on campus. Although private religious colleges project the image of secure places to park your rebellious teenagers and the academic cleft in the Rock of Ages, eventually the brutal realities of drugs, date-rape and corruption taint the picture. With the priestly scandals on the front pages of American papers for the last years, Americans are taking a hard look at social values and the expense of religious education. Although the church decries premarital sex as a sin, how then do so many priests engage in illicit sexual relationships? The excuses of inadequate training or experience in psychological evaluation of candidates simply can’t be accepted from an institution claiming to be nearly two thousand years old. Even in Boccaccio’s days, the Catholic Church had a bad reputation for corruption. Why do parents presume that by sending their kids to a religious school, their children are “safe” from the world?

Written through the eyes of Eve Gallagher, the reader experiences the conflicting values of Catholic America and the expectations that the devoted lay invest in their leaders as well as the disillusionment associated with the loss of innocence when scandal breaks in the morning papers. Eve raises disturbing issues in identifying the weaknesses of parochial administrations that believe naively that the bad will just go away or get buried on the third page. Money buys silence and early departure from school can be arranged. Only so much can be ignored, before life is threatened. Personal sin can be confessed in a confessional behind a curtain, but not when it becomes criminal, endangering another life. The values of the church and school systems are scrutinized in respect to value of human life and the price of maintaining secrecy and Christian ethics.

Sometimes, difficult to follow, Aaron portrays contemporary student life as it bustles down the halls just before the doors slam behind the administrators.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Midwest Book Review

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group