As in her first novel, The Art of Seeing, McGovern shows keen sympathy for marginal characters the shy little girl, the underdog, all those kids in special ed. Bullying figures prominently and painfully in this book, and McGovern's sharp ear for schoolyard vernacular is on regular display. When Chris, an older special-needs student, is seen searching through garbage as part of a science project, he endures merciless teasing. A well-meaning teacher suggests he avoid such behavior in the future, and Chris fires back, "I'm hardly going to do it again now, am I? After the whole school has gotten their jollies out laughing at me. I may look retarded, but I'm not."
It's a small moment that reflects McGovern's strengths: crisp, snappy dialogue, a sharp retort that delivers a character's unexpected self-knowledge and pain with a touch of humor. It's one of many fine touches in this provocative and engaging literary thriller.
Cammie McGovern will be reading from and discussing Eye Contact at the Arborland Borders on Wednesday, September 27.
[Review published September 2006]