The novel The End of Aphrodite by Laurette Folk follows a handful of women as they experience yearning, love, and loss in the sweeping New England oceanside. The characters move through their lives as if in a dream, and likewise Folk’s descriptive, ethereal writing makes experiencing the book feel more like dreaming than reading. Even the sadness and pain the women face is rendered beautifully in Folk’s gentle care, and themes of a Catholic, Italian-American culture adds an extra layer of depth to the story.
As the book progresses, each woman’s life wraps around them like a cocoon. Shy Samantha’s cocoon allows her to transform as she tentatively embraces her womanhood and sexuality:
“She came in with a big garbage bag with the wedding dress in it and handed it to me to put in the cedar closet downstairs. I hid there, took off my clothes and fit myself inside the regality of tulle and satin, of virgin white . . . I eventually abandoned the dress for the veil and would return several times that summer, surreptitiously, to undress and pull the tulle tightly around my skin, wrapping my entire naked body.”
Etta, the titular Aphrodite, spends most of the book struggling to attach the chrysalis of herself to lover after lover. She eventually is able to fully emerge when she embraces becoming a mother and the ramifications it brings. The End of Aphrodite is perfect for readers looking to slowly amble through a story, pausing to meander down a few subplots before making their way back to the denouement. Readers longing for more of Folk’s distinctive voice can pick up her first novel, A Portal to Vibrancy, and her book of poetry and flash fiction, Totem Beasts.
The End of Aphrodite by Laurette Folk. Bordighera Press, April 2020.
Reviewer bio: Stephanie Katz is a librarian with the Manatee County Public Library System and editor in chief of award-winning 805 Lit + Art. She was selected as a Library Journal 2020 Mover & Shaker for her work with 805. She is the author of Libraries Publish: How to Start a Magazine, Small Press, Blog, and More. She blogs about creative library publishing at LiteraryLibraries.org.