I don’t quite know what to make of Good Pussy Bad Pussy: Rachel’s Tale. I’m not sure the author did, either. The title sounds like a lighthearted, sexy romp, and the first part is certainly sexy enough, but Rachel is foolish rather than lighthearted, and some of the situations she gets herself into are too grim to be considered romps.
This isn’t a bad book by any means. The writing is good on a sentence-by-sentence level, even if the overall pattern is somewhat confusing. The central character is likeable enough, even when one wants to give her a clue-by-four (or six, or eight.) The sex is well written, although by the second half of the book there’s very little enjoyment involved.
Rachel, an American, is bored with her husband in Amsterdam, so she leaves him (and her four year old son) and runs off with blond, buff Stefan to Nice, convincing herself that “it was true love, great passion, high romance.” Life on the Riviera seems to be everything she could want, and so does the sex with Stefan. Sex with Stefan’s boss is even better. But sex with the boss’s brutish business associate is not, and Rachel feels guilty that she comes to orgasm even with someone who repels her. (She never seems to realize how lucky she is that all the men she fucks, even the brute, are skilled at giving women oral sex.)
Rachel also feels guilty now and then about leaving her son, but she’s so intent on living her life to the fullest, on having “freedom” and “being someone” (at least in a sexual context,) that she ignores such guilt as much as she can. She also ignores certain facts of life (as do the men, somewhat unbelievably,) and sure enough, she gets pregnant.
Here’s where the story takes a turn or two away from anything remotely approaching a romp. Stefan rejects her; her husband in Amsterdam reluctantly takes her back, but that isn’t working out well; and suddenly she gets word that her father in New York is dying and she must fly there to be with her family.
What follows is a mix of positive—Rachel’s mother is a strong woman who supports her daughter even while they’re both grieving—and over-the-top negative, chiefly due to Rachel’s brother-in-law, a gynecologist who has lusted after her for years and now goes batshit crazy over her with assault after assault. I don’t want to give away every detail, but if the pregnancy itself isn’t supposed to be seen as a punishment for all the joyful sex she’s had, the cartoonishishly obssessive brother-in-law certainly fills that bill. After all Rachel’s rhapsodizing over the glories of sex, is she supposed to be learning a lesson?
Then romance reaches out unexpectedly from the past, and the pregnancy may turn out to provide a reward instead of punishment. If this is meant to be a morality tale, Rachel’s one redeeming act has been refusing to get an abortion.
As I said at the start, I’m not sure what to make of it all. A morality tale or a paean to sexual desire, the greatest life-force? It’s not that I feel a need for every book to be strictly categorized, but in this case I couldn’t help wondering what the reader was supposed to take from all this. Still, every reader is different, so for some, Good Pussy, Bad Pussy may be just what their fantasy lives ordered.