Book Review: Camptown Ladies

By Mari SanGiovanni

In Marie SanGiovanni’s Greeting from Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer, lesbian screenwriter Marie Santora fell hard for closeted actress Lorn Elaine. In Camptown Ladies, Marie is dealing with the end of that affair. Luckily, she has an interesting project to distract her. She’s been recruited to assist her kooky Italian family with creating a campground for gay and lesbian adults.

But Marie isn’t the only one of her siblings with love trouble. Brother Vince has just been left by his girlfriend, Erica. And surprise! Vince’s gal has suddenly realized she’s a dyke. What’s more: she has her eyes set on Marie. Marie likes Erica too, but feels a great deal of loyalty towards her brother. So will Marie wind up with Erica or will Marie graciously bow out of this odd love triangle? And what happens when Lorn Elaine comes back on the scene?

Camptown Ladies take a little while to get going, but once it does, the rewards are plenty. Marie is a funny, relatable and admirable character, and she and Erica have great chemistry. Unfortunately, they don’t have enough scenes together. They’re such a winning pair one can’t help but wish they dominated more of the book.

Another highlight of Camptown Ladies is Marie’s sister. Lisa is one of those people who says whatever’s on her mind, especially when it’s dirty. (Sounds like your coolest best friend, right?) Admittedly she can get annoying, but mostly she’s a hoot: In one of the novel’s best moments, Lisa and Marie talk about the famous sex scene in Desert Hearts in a way that will forever change how you view that film.

And while you will probably want to run off and get Greetings from Jamaica immediately after reading Camptown Ladies, keep in mind that you don’t need to read that book to understand this one. SanGiovanni briefs the reader on all the important aspects of Marie’s backstory.

Now, let’s just hope SanGiovanni is planning for a third installment in this lively series.

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