Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Brooke Davis is a vibrant new voice in fiction. She gives the viewpoints of three characters--a lonely old man, a crochety old woman and a seven-year-old girl who contemplates death. Her father has just died and her mother has abandoned her in a department store. 

Davis mixes just the right amount of pathos and humor when she gives voices Milly. When her mother does not return for her, she imagines that one of the manikins is her friend. She record dead things in her dead things journal. She leaves notes that will supposedly help her Mum find her: "In here Mum."

She also befriends Karl, a touch typist who writes messages to his deceased wife in the air. By accident, Karl joins Milly and Agatha on a bus journey to Kalgoorlie. 

The bus trip is followed by an outlandish train trip through Nullarbor Plain. The three of them are determined to find Milly's Mum or, at least, a relative to take care of her.

Lost and Found is completely different from anything else I've read. Very few novels, after all, feature a seven-year-old who run away with two octogenarians. Very few novels features a seven-year-old who is obsessed with death. 

What makes Milly so unique, however, is her ironic innocence and intelligence.She nearly meets her match though on the train when she meets another little boy who calls himself "Captain Everything."



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Into the Limen: Where an old Squirrel Goes to Die by Sarah Minor

Lambert-Musser Home
I adore this non-fiction essay that appears in Black Warrior Review Fall/Winter 2014.

The author, Sarah Minor, is writing about an old home that belongs to her grandmother--the home that is known as the Lambert-Musser Home in West 2nd, Muscatine, IA. 

I must admit I knew nothing of Iowan architecture on the West Hill of Muscatine or that there even a city in IA called Muscatine.

That hardly matters though because Muscatine is a river town and if you've lived in a river town its easy to feel connected to another river town. 

Of course, Baton Rouge doesn't have a historic district that matches West Hill but it has other attributes.

Muscatine is one of the river cities that Mark Twain was much enamored of. It's still a small town, unlike Baton Rouge, which has become a metroplex.

More to the point, Minor's "Into the Limen" is about forgotten spaces deep within large historical houses. 

In the obscure space under the roof, bracketed by the eaves, is a place called a soffit. This is where you find tools and old letters yellowed photographs, and possibly skeletal remains. 

Minor believes soffits in old homes are "thresholds" or liminal spaces. Other liminal spaces, according to Minor, are airports and beaches. I would add river fronts and swamps to the list.


Even though I had read Poetics of Space for a creative writing class, the power of liminal spaces was never so clear.

Black Warrior Review

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Sunshine Away for M.O. Walsh

Set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this is crime story mixed with revelations that come from the narrator's flashbacks. Even though its fiction, the narrator presents the story as memory, as the first time he fell for a girl, Lindsey.

Unfortunately, the girl he desires falls victim to a terrible 
crime--rape. The young narrator claims not to even know what the word means. Nonetheless, he, like three other boys in the neighborhood, are suspects. 

The narrator and the the two other suspects come from a privileged background, attend a private school and live in a pristine neighborhood. Many wonder how such a dark crime can happen midst so much "sunshine" and innocence.

Walsh does an incredible job of peeling back the layers of each character to reveal their secrets. For Lindsey, it's not the rape that makes her moody and morose; it's in fact, therapy, where she turns dark.

In therapy, Lindsey meets cutters and anorexics and sex-abuse survivors, and, thus, she learns how privileged her life has been. 

The narrator's crush on Lindsey is innocent, or it something darker, like a twisted obsession?  At one point, the narrator makes an elaborate structure out  of yard clippings that resembles Lindsey.

Two other suspects, Bo Kern and Jason Landry, are even more suspicious. But which one of them is truly guilty of this violent crime? 

What at first appears to be a coming-of-age story or a crime story set in the deep south, turns out to be something much richer. In the end, it ponders identity, gender, memory and justice.

For more information about this author,
http://www.mowalsh.com