Revved Up Down Under

"Two things happened to Rosemary early that summer: She won $30,000 playing keno at the Hakoah Club and she fell in love with a woman much younger than herself. Thus, laden with luck, she entered her 51st year." So begins Helen Hodgman's enormously entertaining new novel, Passing Remarks ($11, Ballantine Books). But Rosemary is about to learn that luck, like lovers and money, comes and goes--the money spent on renovations to her house in suburban Sydney; the lover, a 27-year-old named Billie, off on her motorcycle to discover herself in the Outback.

Not one to pine or mope, Rosemary soon embarks on adventures of her own. Over the course of the summer, she has her car stolen by a serial killer (who employs a rather grisly method for removing his victims' jewelry), unknowingly stars in a lesbian porn movie, and hits the winning home run in the annual Tops vs. Bottoms softball game. Meanwhile Billie, having met with an unfortunate surfing accident, has amnesia and ends up in a combination resort and hospice, where she manages to see an amateur pornographic video, starring...well, you get the picture. Billie, for reasons even she can't discern, hops on her cycle pronto and heads back to Sydney.

All this is rollickingly fun, as Hodgman deftly sets her various plots and sub-plots spinning merrily along. Populated by a large cast of quirky characters, from Dykes On Bikes to OWLs (Older Wiser Lesbians), and punctuated by witty irreverent dialogue, Passing Remarks is a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable ride.

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