reviews | appearances

Here's what reviewers are saying about Trash Sex Magic:

Review and Interview with Cynthia Harrison at Garage Band

Publishers Weekly, June 15, 2004
SEX MAGIC Jennifer Stevenson. Small Beer (www.lcrw.net), $26 (320p) ISBN 1931520062

There are some pretty weird things going on in the backwoods along the Fox River, just beyond Chicago's far-western suburbs. Twenty-four-year old Raedawn Somershoe and her mom Gelia are trailer trash, women of ill repute, who have worked their sexual wiles on many men in nearby Berne, Ill., not to mention any number of truckers and passing strangers. They live just outside of town with a variety of ill-sorted, half-feral family members and lovers and are mostly content with life. Then a corrupt developer decides that he wants their riverside property as the site for posh new townhouses and he won't take no for an answer. This turns out to be a mistake because the Somershoes have a powerful sexual magic, magic rooted deeply in the trees and the river, and the earth itself. Alexander Caebeau, a homesick Bahamian who runs heavy machinery for the construction company building the townhouses, quickly falls under Raedawn's spell. Then, after an enormous piece of construction machinery is found disassembled overnight, Caebeau is made night watchman and discovers that he has a marvelous and marvel-filled fate in store for him. Filled with oddly bent characters, lovingly detailed descriptions of the Illinois countryside, and just the right amount of magic, Stevenson's first novel is at once sexy, beautifully written and passing strange. (June 15)

Booklist, June 2004
Stevenson, Jennifer. trash sex magic. June 2004. 320p. Small Beer, $26 (1-931520-06-2); paper, $16 (1-931520-12-7).

They squat in colonies on the banks of a river around which suburbs sprawl: slutty women with unmatched outfits and out-of-fashion hair, whose wild, truant children of curiously invisible fathers are brought up to be equally slutty and unfashionable. Trailer trash. Their decrepit mobile homes stand between the river and a luxurious new housing development. But that's not all that stands between the developers and their dreamed-of riches. For Raedawn Somershoe and her mother, Gelia, aren't just trampy and looking for quickies from the construction workers (though they are that, too). They are as close as a modern suburb can come to real elemental powers**women who make love with the trees and the earth as well as pretty much any human males they encounter. Hardly what environmentalists mean when they say "tree-hugger," the Somershoes are powerful allies in the natural world's attempt to survive urbanization, and they use sex as their most potent tactic. Vivid, strange, pulsing with life, this is an unforgettable debut by a promising author. —Patricia Monaghan

Greenman Review
Jennifer Stevenson, Trash Sex Magic (Small Beer Press, 2004)

"'Giddover here,' he said, 'don't you know trouble's coming? Gummit inspectors! Lightning! The chaos of an accumulation of unmediated vital waveforms!'" - p.96

A storm's a'brewing, the women restless, the men conflicted, and there are the strangest foxes you've ever seen running wild along the bucking river. Trash Sex Magic isn't just a lurid, sexually charged magical romp. Complex characters drive an organic plot, elegantly woven of mythic resonance and familial metaphors.

Raedawn and her mother Gelia Somershoe are the unlikely matriarchs of a make-shift family living scattered amidst the trailers and woods of Berne, Illinois along the Fox River. There's Willy and Davy, and King just back from the service, the boys next door raised by Rae and Gelia's one-time lover Uncle Cracker and Gelia's live-in boyfriend Ernest Brown ever since their parents wandered off. There's the twins too, Mink and Ink, usually covered in mud and rarely dressed, supposedly Uncle Cracker's kids although he's not entirely sure. Raedawn has just lost her man, but that doesn't stop her from being the only one with a job.

At its heart, this a tale about a tree and it's place in the lives of this eclectic family. When Atlas Properties arrives in the vacant lot across the road, intending to build Foxe Parke Townhouses, they tear down the tree, seeking to building riverfront townhouses in it's wake. Instead, the developers find themselves entangled in a magical quagmire of sex and vegetation, especially crucial to one Alexander Caebeau, a skilled bucketloader {operator} who catches the eye of Raedawn.

Jennifer Stevenson's sparkling wit comes through in wordplay and metaphor, and her insight and unwavering attention to detail creates a prose as marvelous as the plot while celebrating Gaia and the passionate and transcendental energy of Eros, and it does so with a profound honesty. Imagine Anne Rice with a sense of humor, or a Christopher Moore novel re-written by Anais Nin. If you are looking for a multi-layered treatise on Goddess archetypes, if you're looking for a fantasy that isn't quite dark, isn't quite urban, or if you're just looking for a funny, well-written trashy novel, this book is definitely for you. Surreal, and full of delightful weirdness, this has quickly become my most-recommended book of the year. —Wes Unruh

Evanston Roundtable, June 2, 2004: New from Small Beer Press

"Trash Sex Magic," Jennifer Stevenson's first novel, is set in Berne, Ill. down by the Fox River. It is a strange tale and a tawdry love story. Ms. Stevenson weaves characters, conflicts, and the forces of nature into a bizarre, swampy soup of secrets, silence and sex.

Raedawn Somershoe and her mother Gelia live in a riverside trailer court and awaken to the sound of chainsaws. Developers have set up to take over the land and drive the little trailer village out.

Gelia, "pink hot pants and plunging neckline," uses her sexual wiles to get information and seduce whoever necessary to get what she wants. Raedawn does not approve. The mother daughter relationship is strained, tense, conflicted.

But there is another force at work, mother nature. The river rises and falls. While the trailer people are used to it, the developers are not. When the contractors find that their digger has mysteriously fallen apart and is buried under a pile of tree branches, it is only the beginning. They do not know what they are up against.

The characters are strong and memorable, the imagery, vivid, and the environment, palpable.

Readers who like stories about tangled lives, repressed emotions, manipulation, competition will find this is the love story for them. "Trash Sex Magic," appropriately named, is a sophisticated trashy novel, intense and raw.

Locus, June 2004

In its short history, Small Beer has published an array of fine books by some of the most talented authors in the field (defining "field" as eclectically as they do and keeping the standards high). Now another joins them with Jennifer Stevenson's wonderful debut novel Trash Sex Magic.

Where Sean Stewart's title only unfolded its meanings gradually, this one is brash and immediate as the women at its heart. Living on the banks of [the] Fox River, Illinois, most of the main characters belong to a "white trash" family that seems almost feral, in the view of a more worldly returnee. Back from five years in Alaska, spent in the army and working the oil pipelines, King Gowdy halts—and panics— at the door of a shabby trailer where his old neighbors still live.

"He wondered if he could stand these people this time. Their thoughts were the thoughts of birds or children, wiped clean every morning so they could do it all over again with a light heart, making the same mistakes, fighting the same battles. King had a longer memory. The army had reconciled him to futility, but home still gave him the heebie-jeebies."

For Raedawn Somershoe, it's just home. But unlike most of her kin, she's bright and objective enough to venture some notions as to why they're outcasts in the larger community: "We're too poor, I guess. My mother's too good-looking. She's with Erny and Erny's black. Cracker's a drunk, the kids run wild, Davy's a half-wit. God knows what they say about me."

That's the "trash" part, and a little teaser about the sex (which will soon arrive, unexpurgated and sizzling). Magic turns out to be inseparable from both sex and nature in this little neck of woodsy riverfront not yet auctioned, dug up, and lined with manufactured homes or shopping malls. The developers are closing in, though—Rae's assessment of her family is addressed to a handsome Bahamian guy who happens to operate a bucketloader for a construction crew. Unlike his corporate bosses, however, Alexander Caebeau has strong enough senses (and sensuality) to feel the earthy uncanniness around him and not shy away, or take what he can, then cut and run. King Gowdy may have been Rae's childhood sweetheart, but Alexander seems more of a match for this woman and the wild magic that storms around her when the iron foxes on the railway trestle bridge run free, turtles swarm in the river, wind carries off strings of little plastic flags from a nearby used-car lot, and the lightning dances.

That storm scene early in the book is a good example of Jennifer Stevenson's impact as a writer—the "Wow!" factor. Trash Sex Magic can sweep you up and leave you dazzled, miles from home. —Faren Miller

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Appearances

  • Reading and other program events at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, Fort Lauderdale Wyndham Hotel, March 24-29, 2004

  • Workshop "Finding Your Voice: Fan Mail From the Future" at Spring Fling writer's conference, Hyatt Deerfield Illinois, April 23, 2004, 9:30pm.

  • Appearance at Celebrate Romance in Chicago, Hyatt Regency Oakbrook, May 14-16, 2004

  • Readings, signing, and a launch party at Wiscon in Madison at the Concourse Hotel, May 28-31, 2004

  • Reading and an autograph session on June 2, 2004, 7:00 pm Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, Illinois 847-866-0300

  • Signing at Book Expo America in Chicago June 4, 2004 from 9:30 to 10:30 am at the "Salute to Women's Fiction" signing. Other appearances at the Small Beer Press booth TBA.

  • Reading, signing, and other appearances June 3-6, at the 2004 Science Fiction Research Association Conference, Doubletree/Chicago Northshore, 9599 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL 60077, 847-679-7000

  • Talk, reading, signing at Prairie Lights Bookstore, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City IA 52240, 319-337-2681, Friday June 25, 2004 8-9pm. Live radio broadcast to WSUI http://wsui.uiowa.edu/prairie_lights.htm at 910AM in Iowa, and later broadcast at WOI 640AM http://www.woi.org/schedules/default.asp in Iowa.


  • RWA's massive, 450-author strong "Readers for Life" charity booksigning at RWA National Conference in Dallas TX, 5:30-8:30pm, July 28, 2004. More than 450 authors sign their books and sell them to raise money to fight illiteracy. This is the only Conference event open to the public.

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