A woman stumbles into the realm of myth when a supernatural creature offers her a heartbreaking choice.
Fresh off a new season of the evergreen X-Files and a late-blooming music career, the multitalented Duchovny (Bucky F*cking Dent, 2016, etc.) offers a spooky domestic drama that is equal parts Nick Hornby and Neil Gaiman. In this tale based on an ancient Irish legend about two star-crossed lovers, Duchovny transposes the story to present-day New York, a city he clearly loves. Emer Gunnels is a masterful second-grade teacher who still experiences fleeting visions from a childhood brain tumor. Her boyfriend is Cuchulain Constance “Con” Powers, an academic who is writing an obscure, right-wing treatise on pre-Christian deities and folklore—“J.K. Rowling meets Michael Lewis in a London pub, they fuck and have a baby that William Buckley raises,” more or less. Things go dark when Emer is confronted by Bean Sidhe, a wildly profane Celtic fairy, who offers her an impossible choice: Con (who has been canoodling with the scary spider goddess Anansi, by the way) may live, but the lovers must separate forever—or he dies right here, right now. After a glimpse of how each choice plays out, Emer makes her fateful decision. “The man lives. Love dies,” declares Sidhe. Duchovny finds a deft balance here between Emer’s domestic rituals and the machinations of actual gods and monsters. It’s also worth praising the novel’s upside-down love story in which Emer grows into the hero of her own story, not merely the object of a man’s quest. As happens, Emer and Con are drawn to each other over and over, while the old gods yearn to break their eternal cycle. With mythical embodiments scattered among the book’s surprisingly down-to-earth milieu—a trio of goddesses and a foulmouthed “mistress-dispeller” among them—Duchovny adroitly couches a Nora Ephron–esque romance in the sphere of Joseph Campbell.
An entertaining, postmodern fairy tale that tests the boundaries of love and fate.