by Leslie Larson
Shaye Areheart Books. 324 pages, $14. (paper)
LESLIE LARSON’S debut novel, Slipstream, captures with extraordinary vividness the ubiquitous anxieties of life in post-9/11 America. Almost none of Larson’s diverse cast of characters is free of the paranoia of our era—a flash of lightning is thought by each to be the explosion of a terrorist bomb, a scattering of baking powder is assumed to be anthrax. Tom Wylie, a bartender at a concession in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the novel’s primary setting, voices the fear of all the characters: “You weren’t safe anywhere—not in McDonald’s, Safeway, your own house.” Their paranoia impacts their view of everything. When Rudy Cullen, a white aircraft-cabin maintenance supervisor, is fired from his job, he’s certain it’s because of his race. When Tom Wylie’s girlfriend gets pregnant, he assumes she did it on purpose to trap him into commitment. His niece, Jewell Wylie, suspects that her lover Celeste is preparing to leave her and return to a former woman partner Dana, the co-parent of their four-year-old adopted daughter. But as an old bumper sticker observed, even paranoids have real enemies: in Jewell’s case, her suspicion is warranted.