Claudia had the misfortune to be born with an ugly face. Growing up in a modest, loving Vermont family, she painfully learned to compensate for her looks in other ways—ways that led to a good marriage to Dan, a young man from a well-off New York City family. Appalled by their new daughter-in-law’s appearance, Dan’s parents encourage plastic surgery, and suddenly, amazingly, at age thirty, Claudia experiences life for the first time as an attractive woman.
Claudia barely has time to accustom herself to her newly sculpted features when Dan’s work transfers the couple to a small town in the South. There, she begins to feel an affinity not just to the lush, hot landscape but also to the black people who live, as she once did, at the margins of the affluent white society she and Dan are welcomed into. Claudia’s lifelong wish for prettiness has come dazzlingly true, but behind her remade face, she struggles to believe in it. Increasingly isolated from Dan, who is relishing their new life and friends, Claudia finds herself rebelling against the subtle, pervasive racism that imbues Southern life and, in search of an honest, true connection, unconsciously drawn to the black man who does their yard work. Claudia’s fascination with him sets off an explosive chain of events through which the layers of her physical disguise begin to disintegrate.
Boldly assured, electrifying in its emotional impact, Passing Strange heralds a major new talent. From the melancholy romanticism of Scott Fitzgerald to the fearless honesty of Flannery O’Connor, MacLeod recalls the masters, but she forges her own territory with a vision that is troubling, wise, yet surprisingly unsentimental. Our obsession with physical appearance is laid bare in this love story of bittersweet beauty, a work of resounding complexity and insight.
About Sally MacLeod
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Published June 11, 2002
by Random House.
Literature & Fiction.