I’ve just finished a new adult novel about Tookie’s early adult life and am seeking early readers to comment on it before I submit it to my publisher. A synopsis follows. If you’re interested in reading the manuscript, email me at GeorgeQKaplan@gmail.com.
Shortly after moving yet again, this time to a small Midwestern working-class mill town in 1965, the then guileless teenaged TOOKIE beguiles the boy next door, both figuratively and literally. TIM, Mensa-bright but from a large dysfunctional family on her street, works in the machine shop at the bullet works after failing to keep his scholarship at a large private research university, accidentally sees Tookie and instantly recognizes the bookish, red-haired, freckle-faced girl as the woman of his dreams.
Mary Louise (TOOKIE) loves her name but dislikes the nickname her doting father gave her for reasons long forgotten and by which everyone but her mother and Tim address her. Her father works as an itinerate cost accountant on a short-term heavy industrial project in the area before moving on to another project in North Jersey. He makes too little to afford decent whiskey, which limits the frequency of his binges, but her cash-strapped unhappy mother of five, turns on her drinking lamp every afternoon and guzzles beer from oversized bottles until she can hold no more. “I had a good mother until four p.m.,” recalls Tookie who never drinks anything stronger than cranberry juice.
Old-fashioned Tim feels wanted for the first time since fourth grade when his grandfather died. Tookie savors his attention and basks in his adoration. She thinks she’s very ordinary on the outside—and boys generally agree with her assessment—until Tim finds her devastatingly beautiful. She considers herself extraordinary because of her superior intelligence. Their bliss ends in six short months when Tim’s draft board reclassifies him 1-A. Two months later, in May 1966, he leaves for Air Force boot camp.
While Tim is overseas, Tookie moves to a wealthy North Jersey suburb in her senior year to find herself behind her new classmates who, if not as smart as she is, are better schooled and much more affluent. She frantically treads water to complete. Over the summer after she graduates, her only sister marries, Tookie turns eighteen and, Tim returns, still hooked. Tookie takes a clerical job and longs to enlist in the sexual revolution. Tim denies her sex; she withholds her love. ZELDA scoops up Tim and Tookie stays behind when her parents move to Massachusetts.
Free of parental and Tim’s limitations, Tookie moves into her own apartment and scrupulously studies The Joy of Sex. She seduces the first man from work to show interest. After dumping him, she hones her skills on young airmen on their way to Vietnam. She’s not excited about intercourse but delights in giving oral sex and quickly becomes a virtuoso. Seeing her meager earnings limited without a degree, she enrolls in a statistics program at the nearby state university. She sleeps across—not up, because she believes women who screw for advancement are whores—the roster of men at the pharmaceutical company where she works days while studying nights and weekends, alternating between textbooks and sex manuals. Squeezed between outstanding bills and little income, she accepts a shadowy businessman’s offer to be his sugar baby. Three years of monogamy and hard work lands her a B. A. magna cum laude. Life is perfect until her sugar daddy disappears without a word.
Tookie falls hard for the sophisticated middle manager, so hard she perfects the Shanghai Squeeze to delight Isaac at the climax of a week-long Las Vegas statistics conference. Isaac moves in immediately after returning from the tryst. His lawyer soon slaps him with the cold, hard facts of 1977 New Jersey divorce law. Isaac scampers back home to wife and country club life. Inconsolable after hearing Isaac say, “all the right things,” her phone rings. It’s Tim.
Tookie invites herself to visit Tim who, in the intervening years, finished his bachelor’s degree, ended a disastrous marriage to Zelda, and now operates a one-man office in Pennsylvania. Tookie seduces Tim with her world-class oral sex and leaves him reeling Sunday afternoon, thinking he’ll never see him again. On work on Monday, Tookie can’t bear seeing Isaac and returns to Tim. Apparently recovered by midweek, Tookie shocks him with stories, some true, of her sexual escapades. Now twenty-seven, with Tookie’s biological clock ticks audibly, she seeks a father for the daughter she craves. Could she convince Tim to impregnate her?