An estranged family’s tragic story is incrementally revealed in this deeply surreal novel.
Alternating narration among five teens, many of them unnamed but for monikers like The Freak, The Shoveler, and CanIHelpYou?, as well as an older married couple, Gottfried and Marla, and the younger of two violent and troubling brothers, an expansive net is cast. An unwieldy list of the cast featured in each part melds well with the frenetic style of this experimental work but does little to actually clarify how they fit together; the first half, at least, is markedly confusing. However, readers able to relax into the chaos will be richly rewarded as the strands eventually weave together. The bitingly sardonic voice of The Freak, who seems to be able to move through space and time, contrasts well with the understated, almost deadpan observations of The Shoveler, and the quiet decency of Malcolm and the angry snark of CanIHelpYou?, who is falling for her biracial (half white, half black) best friend, are distinctly different from Loretta’s odd and sexually frank musings. Family abuse and neglect and disordered substance use are part of the lives of many of the characters here, but it’s made clear that, at the root, this white family has been poisoned by virulent racism.
Heavily meditative, this strange and heart-wrenching tale is stunningly original. (Fiction. 14-adult)