Though it takes nearly half the book to draw out complete sketches of the main characters, in The Intimates, first time novelist Ralph Sassone has created two of the most compelling characters in years.
Divided into three sections, the book centers on friends Maize and Robbie, with a section devoted to each and the third shared by both characters. Maize is a smart high school student being raised by her ambitious single mom (think of Reese Witherspoon’s mom in Election) when the book begins. Maize, mature, but still sexually naive, makes a habit out of hanging around the office of her male guidance counselor gently flirting and eventually loses her virginity to her college interviewer in a case of mistaken identity. Robbie is mentioned only briefly as a friend she once had an awkward teenage make out session with before he moved off to boarding school.
Robbie’s section kicks off with him now in college, recently out of the closet and in Italy to visit his estranged father. He has rekindled his friendship with Maize and just escaped a doomed relationship with a college professor, Robbie’s first sexual experience.
The third and final section finds Robbie and Maize graduated from college and living together in a dumpy ground floor apartment in New York, neither with a steady job. The duo, along with Robbie’s latest boyfriend, is back in their hometown to help Robbie’s mother pack up her recently sold house.
Though the character details are parsed out in bits and piece throughout the book, Sassone knows how to keep the reader’s attention. Often funny, The Intimates is touching platonic love story from beginning to end.
The Intimates by Ralph Sassone/Hardcover/ 256 pages/2011/Farrar, Straus and Giroux