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Title page for ETD etd-04122010-153329

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Sullivan, Valerie
Author's Email Address valerie.sullivan@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-04122010-153329
Title A Special Relativity
Degree Master of Arts
Department Creative Writing
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Nancy Reisman Committee Chair
Peter Guralnick Committee Member
Tony Earley Committee Member
  • fiction
Date of Defense 2010-03-22
Availability unrestricted
A Special Relativity is the story of a family living in Orange County, California. The novella takes place during one summer. Vanden West—beautiful and cruel—has just returned home from college on the East Coast to find that her new family in California is entirely different from the one she left behind. Her widowed mother, Lori West, has remarried Americorp CEO and multi-millionaire Howard Moore, whose stepdaughter Elizabeth Moore is Vanden’s new stepsister. Vanden’s mother and her new husband are rarely in the country, leaving Vanden and Elizabeth mostly unsupervised in an environment ridden with temptation. The girls zigzag through Southern California with Vanden’s wild friends, experimenting with drugs, recklessness, and a blasé attitude toward sex. Surrounded by adults who seem alarmingly lifeless – and filled with a frightening apathy toward their environment – Vanden and her friends seek out anything that will make them feel alive. Immersed in a world of dizzying wealth and a fanatical obsession with beauty, Elizabeth is transformed from modest, inconspicuous, and well-behaved, to thrill-seeking, spontaneous, and apathetic. Meanwhile, a tragic act of neglect leaves the child in Vanden’s care dead. Beneath the glittering surface of the West family’s lavish lifestyle and behind the barriers this guarded family has erected for themselves, Vanden learns that there is more to her new family than meets the eye—including a long-buried secret involving her deceased father. Ultimately, in this world of uniformly blue skies, all becomes relative: truth, morality, self.

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