Best friends share secrets, shoes, clothes, jewelry and --- in
SMALL ACTS OF SEX AND ELECTRICITY --- a husband. A husband is not
an object to be given away, but that is just what Jane does. "He's
a dubious gift isn't he?" Jane gives her husband Mike to her best
friend Mattie, along with her life and children, and drives away in
a Jaguar that was part of their childhood memories together. Jane,
Mattie and Mike form a love triangle that has eroded Jane's
marriage and driven her to give a daring gift in an attempt to
break the strength of the triangle.
Mattie has been invited by Jane to grandmother Franny's oceanfront
beach house to appraise her estate. Franny's sudden death six
months earlier demands that antiques and "stuff" be appraised and
small acts of sex and electricity exposed. The electricity between
Mattie and Jane's husband Mike has arced repeatedly over the years.
Jane not only wants to settle the estate, she wants to plug Mike
and Mattie together for a summer of heated exploration.
In a provocative opening to a bizarre story of friendship and
self-discovery, Mattie willingly assumes her new role as "Jane" and
climbs into bed with a sleeping Mike before Jane's taillights are
completely invisible. Permission granted, permission taken. No more
small acts of sex, "sleeping with men who reminded me of Mike."
Mattie and Mike seize the opportunity with teenage-like lust to
explore their feelings for each other. The "mythology" that
marriage makes relationships safe is sufficiently refuted. "...if
you'd seen Mike and Jane fifteen years ago...they looked like
people destined for a magazine culture, not wreckage."
The competition between Jane and Mattie for the "whole life" began
when they met at ages eight and nine, living a short stretch of
Miramar Beach from each other every summer. Jane and her sister Nan
spent summers with their chic grandmother Franny after the suicide
of Jane's father. Franny took the girls every summer and taught
them about life, antiques, how to iron and how to wear a scarf, and
told them they'd be "amazing women." Mattie played second fiddle to
her parents' obsession with sailing and alcohol, and Franny became
a surrogate. "When you're here in the summer, I want you to feel
like you're one of my girls," Franny said. The deceased Franny is a
formidable spirit whose lingering scent of Chanel No. 5 remains
firmly fixed in both girls' memories.
Through Mattie's reflective narrative and memories of past events
with Jane and Mike, the reader learns which small acts of sex and
electricity led to Jane's sudden departure and life swap with
Mattie. What part does Mike take in the swap? He's a willing
participant in bed and an outlet for Jane and Mattie's competition.
In fact, the dual electrical fixture on the cover aptly conveys
that Mike is the outlet these two women plug into in a way that has
subtlety eroded the wires of his marriage and forced the woman he
has lusted for since college to see his true character --- a man
who in the end can only offer chaos. "I'm offering you chaos,
Mattie. You can't turn chaos down. I love you."
Behind the closed doors of Franny's estate, Mona and Livvy, Jane's
four-year-old and 14-year-old d