2020 (Cleis Press)
At the opening of 52 Fridays: A Polyamorous, Queer, Kinky, Tantric Love Story, we discover that Damien has broken up with Raven; he felt uncomfortable being part of her polyamorous constellation of relationships. But then Damien´s new lover Violet, intrigued about this woman upon discovering the deep impact she has had on her boyfriend´s life, seeks to develop a bond of her own with her. With their primary partners´ blessings. (Raven is married to Nick), the two women begin meeting weekly, exploring their relationship, its place within the other intimate relationships in their lives, and finding connections to their imagination, creativity, and sensual identities.
KamalaDevi McClure´s novel centers on the relationship between these two women: a confident and knowledgeable performance artist (Raven) mentoring the younger yoga teacher (Violet), guiding her into a brave new world not only of polyamorous relationships, but also of kink, solo theater creation, and more. Over the course of 52 Fridays (one chapter for each meeting between these adventurers), Violet and Raven explore everything the reader can imagine, from various sex toys and role-play to multiple partners and all bodily fluids. Some scenes may be more your jam, in terms of fantasy or arousal, but each is depicted with consent and a healthy sense of play. Readers will find at least a few episodes to turn you on, and maybe a few more than you didn´t know piqued your interest.
McClure´s writing here throughout the book is direct and clear. I personally found it refreshing how normalized polyamorous relationships and kink are in this fictional world. Each chapter reads almost as a kind of primer on how to explore a lifestyle of non-monogamy in a healthy manner, with open and clear communication with the people you care about. Further, through these characters, the reader also learns what pitfalls may come up along the way, and what strategies may be deployed to resolve potential conflicts and misunderstandings. The men and women in 52 Fridays are extremely patient, understanding, and open with one another; perhaps some readers may find them a bit too open?
I know I sometimes felt that there was little dramatic conflict inside this book. Each obstacle along the way of Violet´s entrance into this new world of kink and polyamory seems to be overcome with little effort, and Raven´s occasional outbursts of jealousy or heartache seem to vanish within a few minutes, with just a few words. Am I the only one who cannot relate to this landscape of relationships? Perhaps the world of 52 Fridays is meant to be a fantasy, an ideal for us to strive for?
Yogic imagery and symbolism saturates McClure´s novel, or at least a kind of California tantra that Westerners can easily embrace without requiring much change or sacrifice within oneself. In this book, women have "flowers" or "yonis", not pussies. Characters voice intentions before sex with words that evoke the cosmic and the eternal. Novice Violet welcomes every new sexual/spiritual lesson or exploration from her mentor Raven with a level of enthusiasm that is extraordinary for its complete surrender. I would have welcomed more edge, more friction between these characters´ personalities. Violet gushes a bit too frequently in her worship of Raven, whose knowledge seems ceaseless on all things. If the book is a series of unrelated episodes, then such quips wouldn´t matter so much; but when sequenced together in a progression, I wonder how this story accumulates. The characters seem to change so little, or maybe its that the challenges they face within the book are so easily overcome that it challenges my ability to relate to these characters. Perhaps I am not the right audience for this novel?
In terms of erotic literature that deals with kink, however, I love how McClure´s story contains characters actually work for a living, and are not all absurdly wealthy. Raven, Nick, Violet, and Damien all have jobs. They spend hours working at their various professions, and it´s refreshing to see them balance these obligations with scheduling time with their partners and themselves. The details surrounding Raven´s experimental theater company, for example, including its economic constraints, its emotional and temporal demands, was particularly wonderful to read about. I applaud McClure for choosing to locate her characters not on some hit show on Broadway, but instead a realm more modest but realistic success.
Raven´s musings on parenting were also enjoyable to read, particularly her reflections on contrasting her own earlier reading habits, and what books she chooses to read to her own child today. Such details offer not only a firsthand understanding of parenting, but also model mothers and fathers enjoying healthy and dynamic polyamorous relationships, which can be kinky, tantric and loving.
As a book, 52 Fridays may border on a kind of utopian fantasy, but there is definitely enough sex here to arouse. What´s more, the totality of these scenes create a detailed blueprint on how to have one´s relationships characterized by clear and respectful communication, emotional transparency, and pleasure. Ultimately, it´s not a bad ideal to fantasize about.