Review

My Dreams Out in the Street

by Kim Addonizio

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the saying
goes. But what if, in your desperation, you are alone, with nothing
but the clothes on your back? And, then, what if you lose those
clothes, too? Such are the desperate times of 24-year-old Rita
Jackson, who finds herself homeless on the streets of San
Francisco, trying to avoid heroin and prostituting herself for
money for booze, cigarettes and cheap motel rooms. Rita is the sad,
lonely and unforgettable protagonist of Kim Addonizio's new novel,
MY DREAMS OUT IN THE STREET.

After a nasty fight, Rita's husband, the dashing and only slightly
less dysfunctional Jimmy, storms out of their apartment. By the
time we meet them a year later, they have lost each other in the
city. Rita circles the city, visiting the places they frequented
together. She has lost everything in the previous year, starting
with her husband, until she is homeless and strung out --- with no
money, no ID and eventually no clothes. She is haunted by her past
--- a childhood filled with abandonment, rape, abuse and even
murder. Without Jimmy (and even with him), she drinks to numb
herself but feels guilty and ashamed of her actions and even for
the things done against her.

Jimmy is looking for Rita, but with less intensity as Rita's search
for him. He is working as a waiter in a fancy restaurant and has an
apartment where he can listen to his blues records. He hangs out in
bars with friends, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to stay out of
trouble. He gets a tattoo with Rita's name under a heart, but twice
he sees her, disheveled and alone on the street, and doesn't go to
her. He, too, is overcome with guilt and shame.

After Rita witnesses a crime in the hallway of a scummy motel, she
meets Gary Shepard, a private investigator assigned to the case.
Charming and strong, Gary at first feels like a safe presence for
Rita. But his attraction to her becomes too intense, and she's
still in love with Jimmy. Soon, Rita's life is spiraling down
faster than ever. She and Gary end up together in a motel with no
belongings and very little money, and a killer is after her because
of what she saw in the motel hallway. After leaving Gary, she
becomes vulnerable to the madman's clutches; still, she seeks Jimmy
and holds on to the hope of their reunion.

MY DREAMS OUT IN THE STREET is intense and gritty. Rita, Jimmy,
Gary and the other shadowy characters are all damaged and
depressed, violent to themselves and to others. But this is also a
love story. Jimmy and Rita seem, in the traditional literary sense,
destined to be together --- it's just a matter of finding their way
to each other again. We are not given a concrete conclusion but are
left feeling hopeful for the couple in the near future (although to
contemplate their long-term success doesn't engender much hope at
all).

Addonizio's prose is light and forthright --- a realism verging on
lyricism, without sentimentality but not lacking beauty. MY DREAMS
OUT IN THE STREET is short but doesn't feel sparse at all, and in
fact readers may be left wanting more. This is a dark and
disturbing, yet oddly romantic, summer tale worth checking
out.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 7, 2011

My Dreams Out in the Street
by Kim Addonizio

  • Publication Date: July 3, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743297725
  • ISBN-13: 9780743297721