Twelfth installment in the chronicles of Harington’s fictional Stay More (Thirteen Albatrosses, 2001, etc.).
Anthropomorphic whimsy and religious symbolism cohabit quite agreeably in this story of “a girl’s passage into womanhood”—a passage that begins when redneck state trooper Sugrue “Sog” Alan abducts seven-year-old Robin Kerr and takes her to an abandoned house on a remote mountaintop. The opening incidents are narrated variously, most arrestingly by Hreapha, Sog’s abused dog, who nevertheless returns to “Mount Madewell” (so-called for the house’s former inhabitants). Hreapha introduces us to the concept of the “in-habit”: roughly, the part of a being that remains in a place that it had loved. Sog never does fulfill his pedophilic desires, dying in the aftermath of a stroke, and leaving Robin accompanied by Hreapha and a growing “menagerie” that includes a sardonic “bobkitten” and a good-natured king snake—as well as the protective “in-habit” of 12-year-old Adam Madewell, long since gone from the mountain: a “ghostly” presence with which the increasingly self-reliant and ingenious Robin effects a strange metamorphosis. With is a curiously seductive story that steadily builds a kind of fabulistic power very like that found in Kipling’s animal fables. It also carries echoes of the presences of nonhuman protagonists in Harington’s The Cockroaches of Stay More, and the revisionist allusions to Lolita in his Ekaterina (this novel in fact specifically alludes to Nabokov, in one of the passages describing Adam’s “other life”). It’s sexy, funny, and reaches a splendid crescendo as Robin grows into the full power of her womanhood, becoming both an Eve conceived in innocence but elevated beyond it to knowledge, and the crucial element in what can only be called a creation myth.
A key work in Harington’s one-of-a-kind oeuvre.