Review by Gloria Feit
From the publisher: “It’s about Alice Shipley and Lucy Mason, at one time the closest of friends, now wedged apart by a chilling secret. They find themselves reunited in Morocco in 1956, where revolution is imminent, though it seems like the real warfare is between the two of them. The dusty alleyways of Tangier have never felt so ominous.”
First things first: “Tangerine” is what you are called if you are of, or from, Tangiers. The chapters’ p.o.v. alternates between Lucy and Alice, fittingly enough. The first belongs to Alice, musing as she looks out the window at the streets of Morocco, thinking back to her days at Bennington College, in Vermont, where she and Lucy, both 17, were best friends and roommates [having met on their very first day at college.]” And where she met John McAllister, to whom she is now married, although having decided not to change her name: “It felt important, somehow, to retain some part of myself, my family, after everything that had happened.” Trying “to not think each and every second of the day about what had happened in the cold, wintry Green Mountains of Vermont.” It is now just over a year since that time. (There are several references to “what had happened,” although the reader is not told what that “everything” was for quite a while, e.g., “It was perhaps too much to hope for, I knew, that things would simply revert back to how they had once been, before that terrible night.”)
Lucy, who is a writer of obituaries for a local newspaper, first appears in Chapter Two, as she describes the intense heat of the city, where she finds “the promise of the unknown, of something infinitely deeper, richer, than anything I had ever experienced in the cold streets of New York.” She has come to Tangiers for the express purpose of finding and joining Alice. Born in a small town in Vermont, Tangiers is literally another world for her. When she makes her way to Alice’s apartment, she finds it cluttered with books, by Dickens and others of that ilk, which is surprising to Lucy, as the Alice she had known was “not a big reader. I had tried to encourage her during our four years as roommaes, but try as I might to interest her, she had only stuck up her nose. They’re all just so serious, she had complained . . . she was made, it seemed, for living, rather than reading about the experiences of other lives.” When Lucy re-enters her life, Alice is delighted to see her “once friend, the closest friend that I had even known before it had all gone wrong.” The tale goes along this way, with fascinating insights into the two women, and into this stifling city, and its people and places, so completely foreign to everything they have known till then. The writing is fascinating, and the mystery, when it is finally made clear to the reader, well worth the time it took to get us there.