Passing Strange by Sally MacLeod
A Novel

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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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Sally MacLeod was raised in Burlington, Vermont, and, after studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, worked in New York, Milan, and London. A subsequent five-year interlude in a small North Carolina town inspired this novel, her first. She now lives on the southeast coast of England with her husband, painter and filmmaker Marcus Reichert.
Published June 11, 2002 by Random House. 320 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Passing Strange

She's superb at describing the emotional, physical and even financial costs of a major facelift: the discomfort, the frozen tea bag therapy, the salt water rinse, the diet of bland food, and then the shock of a new and lovely face and the unwarranted social acceptance it buys.No one in MacLeod's ...

Feb 08 2017 | Read Full Review of Passing Strange: A Novel

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