Karen X. Tulchinsky's Love Ruins Everything (Press Gang, 280 pages, $18.95 paper) reminded me of a shooter: two beverages layered in one glass, to be consumed together. The novel-one part romance, one part politics-centres on Nomi Rabinovitch, who, when we meet her, is living in San Francisco. Recently dumped by Sapphire, her live-in lover of three years, Nomi sits at a friend's apartment wallowing in her misery until a phone call prompts her return to Toronto: her mother is getting married again.
Going home, for Nomi, means re-engaging in all the usual family melodramas, but there are also a few surprises. Her gay cousin Henry is attacked on the street and ends up in hospital, the beating a result of his efforts to go public with a controversial news story about government involvement in the spreading of the AIDS virus. But not all is doom and gloom for Nomi: she falls in love again, this time with Julie, who is not only seductive and beautiful but loves Nomi in return.
The best part of Love Ruins Everything, however, is unquestionably the character of Faygie, Nomi's flippant, exuberant, wise-cracking mother. Faygie is the sort of woman who, when her daughter reminds her that she, Nomi, is still a lesbian, says: "I don't want to hear that word today. People are coming over." Virtually all the dialogue involving Faygie is laugh-aloud funny. Tulchinsky has captured her voice and her mannerisms so astutely that you feel she's in the room with you as you're reading.