Open Me by Lisa Locascio

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Inside I felt sloppy.

In Open Me, Roxana Olsen, is a young American whose original plan to summer in Paris with her best friend Slyvie falls apart. If she has sharp pangs of want, Sylvie’s life is filled with everything she’ll never have. Due to administrative errors, she learns the day after graduation that she will not be going to Paris with her best friend through a work study program after all. There is an oppurtunity though, she has been booked for a trip to Copenhagen, because there are low numbers of students who applied to the Hoogah Danmark program. The program runs the same amount of time as the one she was originally signed up for. When Sylvia doesn’t seem all that crushed by the prospect of Roxana’s absence, and doesn’t offer her a place to stay with her Aunt in Paris, Roxana decides she’s on her own and a flight to copenhagen is better than being stuck, sifting through the wreckage of her parents recent divorce and working a crappy summer job. She doesn’t inform her parents that Paris is no longer an option, and keeps up the farce that she is in Paris via emails. Once she reaches Copenhagen, she meets Søren and so begins a sexual exploration of her body, a sexual awakening that flirts with danger.

To say that Roxana is naive is an understatement.She soon finds herself wrapped up in the charms of Søreneverything that is foreign about him is exciting. He purposes a plan, a romantic idea to go home with him to Farsø, and after a night of passion and release, she decides to live in the moment. Søren is older, wiser about love and relationships. Recklessly she rushes into a domestic arrangement of sorts with him, lets her life take a new shape, but it distorts. No one knows where she is, she is free to be reborn. It’s shocking that she plunges into such a plan with someone, who was only hours ago a stranger, but it is also exciting. As an older jaded woman (and a mother of a 20-year-old daughter) I just thought, this is what the damage of romantic movies does to common sense. The older you get, the more you look into what is waiting at the bottom of the cliff you’re about to jump off and the less you believe a mysterious stranger will be the answer to your every dream but likely to off you.

In his town he becomes more formal, strange. Maybe it’s just cultural differences, maybe his aloof behavior is a Denmark thing. If whatever this is between her and Søren becomes too intense or sours, well she can always figure something out, right? Soon she is more a kept woman waiting for her lover’s return as he is free to come and go as he pleases. Without a key ( for most of this it sounds like imprisonment, for him it’s more an erotic dream and convenience) she finds ways to escape their love den. It’s not a torture story folks. On her little jaunts outside, she meets Zlaten whom she had an embarrassing moment with already. Here we get a taste of racism, class differences in another country because America isn’t the only country full of Xenophobia. What she experiences with Zlaten is completely different, and in many ways Zlaten is far more worldly than what she imagined Søren to be initially. There is tenderness, not just electric hot attraction between them. As to the erotica, I’ve read my fair share and I’m too old to find anything shocking. There is passion and then there is something meaty, deeper, full of meaning. Roxana is sheltered when she meets Søren, and looking for a great love story, or at least a grand passion, God knows what her head is filled with but Søren’s goal is to disabuse her of the ideal of perfect love. If Søren is detached passion, and raw pleasure then Zlaten is euphoric desire, heart, connection. Some of the sex scenes may be too graphic for some readers, but it serves it’s purpose I think. We are all animals in moments of passion, and it’s not always born out of love, but lust. Uncomfortable, exciting, whose to say what is passion for one person or the next that’s sex for you.

I have to mention the very beginning while not as stimulating as erotica it still bears importance and that is the difference between Roxana and her best friend, how much easier life is for Sylvie with her pretty looks and money. This seems the driving force for Roxana wanting to feed the pangs of desire, to not always be the one left longing for things that seem off-limits. As she disconnects from the dream of Paris, she wants a grand adventure of her own, at any cost. Some light is shed when the anger that her friend doesn’t even bother to message her once she’s off on her own Parisian trip comes to the surface. It seems like such a small thing, but I think it fed into her throwing caution to the wind. A sort of ‘screw her, this is my time to shine!’ It’s hard to watch her throwing herself all over the place, just winging it. How painful youth and growth is! I am a little disappointed in Søren as a character. It felt a little rushed, which of course is the point, but sometimes he didn’t feel real. I think he was a believable hook at the start and then fizzled out as a person, I think there could have been more time spent on him. Zlaten was wonderfully fleshed out though. Short of telling you what she does, who she ends up with I will say this, she does behave sloppy and a little stupid in the way youth allows us, if we’re lucky and not in danger of say, a predator. Danger comes in many forms, usually she is more a danger to herself  with her rash decisions but to be fair, without that fearlessness she wouldn’t have experienced this maddening passion. It’s much more sexual liberation than growing up. Traveling all this way she spends more time between the sheets, so don’t expect a ton of sightseeing or bumping shoulders with the locals. She is confused, wet behind the ears, desperate to quench that bottomless hunger that haunts not just the young, but the old. Does she come to some profund epiphany, well… she certainly understands the desires of the body vs the heart.

Is this just an erotic adventure before college or a meaningful lesson in love?

Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Grove Press

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