At first it seems that Peter will be the villain of the story. He always explains to Bran that she doesn’t understand things, gives up her homework, and gives a speech on the subject of her limitations. When she admits to being in love with him, he replies, “I know very well.” On the other hand, he develops a pretty good bootleg college education for Bran, with high expectations and strong book recommendations.
On the other hand, he returns from a school vacation, engaged to the woman named Yasira, who, he tells Bran, has a heavenly ass and has no ambitions other than to look after Peter’s future children and do housework. This ties in with his own ambitions to avoid childcare and domestic work. ‘She’s simple’, is how he describes Yasira’s appeal. Oh, to be simple and have a heavenly ass.
There is a music video of the Roxy Music song “Avalon” in which Bryan Ferry wears a white tuxedo and mournfully dances around a castle. At one point, a falcon perches on his gloved wrist, and both the bird and Ferry turn to face the camera at the exact same moment—a feat of directing, or perhaps luck. Later, there is a scene where the same falcon clearly has to step on a rose, but the bird hesitates and misses. Even a trained hire falcon resists control, the video seems to say. Just like love itself. Despite Peter’s wishes for an obedient wife and life, he loves Bran.
Most of the novel is set in the early to mid 2010s, though it drifts outside of its time period. Bran carries a prepaid burner phone instead of an iPhone. There is no President Obama, no Sandy Hook, no Boston Marathon bombing, no Justin Bieber. One character accidentally goes viral and is attacked by trolls for a dance-related cultural appropriation, but Bran isn’t on Twitter or Instagram. Nowhere does the word “selfie” appear.
If a character’s light is falsely obscured by a bushel in the first act of a novel or movie, you can expect what follows from the revenge genre to be “I’ll show you.” But Bran doesn’t want revenge on her stepfamily. They are losers. The concept of victimhood is to Bran as the concept of a glacier is to an amphibian living in the jungle. She wants to write screenplays and win Peter’s love. Where’s the time for whining? Or retaliation?
Towards the end of the book, the possibility of a terrible plot twist arises – the kind that rests on a ridiculous coincidence. Zinc dangles the twist long enough to make a reader squirm and then — let you watch! – darts in a different direction. There’s no tampering with the rules in “Avalon,” the bright and clever kind of novel that mimics the experience of learning a new game: you enter its world voluntarily and add your reading effort to Zink’s writing effort with the idea that the sum of these energies will create a zone of joy and meaning. What fun.