Reeling from heartbreak on a school field trip, Miriam deliberately pushes a valuable sculpture to the ground, and another girl sees her do it.
Paloma, the girl who witnessed Miriam’s act of destruction, confronts her afterward, asking a favor. Paloma has left her home for reasons she does not disclose, and she wants Miriam, a photographer, to go there and take pictures of her 3-year-old brother. As her blackmail-tinged connection to Paloma grows, Miriam grows more and more distant from her parents and her best friend, Adam. Miriam’s pain ranges from the philosophical (her ex-boyfriend’s acquiescence when his father dismisses art) to the bodily (nausea and insomnia) to the existential (“I know what nausea can mean for a girl who used to sleep with a boy”). The story falters, however, when interior details are withheld from readers. They are told that Miriam’s sculpture-pushing and her sullenness at Shabbat dinner are out of character for her, but they don’t see enough of her thoughts in the moment to make this declaration ring true. Miriam’s parents arrange family meetings and counseling to discuss the changes in Miriam’s behavior, but there is oddly little mention of the breakup that precipitated it. The language is evocative and atmospheric, though, and Paloma in particular is an unusual and compelling figure.
Intriguing but frustratingly uneven. (Fiction. 14-18)