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Three strangers in a rural Canadian town intersect in complex ways through the nexus of a mysterious piece of art.

Kent is a disaffected teenager growing up in the small Canadian town of Durham. His father is gone, his mother is emotionally absent, his brother died a few years ago under circumstances Kent will not talk about. When Kent is asked by a teacher to submit his documentary project to a contest—the prize for which could mean his ticket out of Durham—he's torn between his desire to create something like his favorite cult movie, Evie of the Deepthorn, and his desire to protect himself with slacker anonymity. Sarah—from whose perspective the second section is narrated—is a painfully awkward teen afflicted with virulent acne and an unpredictable temper. She only feels like herself when she's working on her magnum opus, Evie of the Deepthorn, a fantasy novel she's been writing since childhood. After her father’s death, Sarah burns the manuscript only to return to Durham 10 years later to the same secluded clearing where she buried the ashes. There she meets a young man she dimly recognizes from high school, who turns out to be Kent Adler, author of a book of poems she admires. In the midst of her own existential crisis, she forms an immediate bond with Adler that is as powerful as it is brief and sets her life on a new course. Some years later, Reza—the narrator of the third section—comes to Durham to visit the grave of acclaimed poet Kent Adler, who committed suicide in the neighborhood woods in 1976. In the aftermath of a bad breakup Reza is seeking the sort of elegiac clarity he finds in his favorite Adler poem, “Evie of the Deepthorn.” With the help of Sarah, now a clerk at a local real estate agent’s office, Reza finds Adler’s grave but discovers nothing of the spiritual balm he had expected there. Babyn’s debut novel has moments of deeply affecting writing and captures the emotional void of depression and the fear that trembles alongside desire with a deft touch. However, the convolutions of the story—which shuffles the details of the characters’ lives from section to section with deliberate contradictory intent—distract from the human truth at the heart of the novel. The unfortunate result is a book more akin to a failed parlor trick than a lingering expression of grief or faith in renewal.

A book intent on rendering isolation which suffers from an excess of experimental overlay.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4597-4557-5
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Dundurn
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2020


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