In this debut novel, a teenage girl displays disturbing behavior while her frayed home life worsens.
The year is 1989, and 16-year-old Lucia Goldman lives with her mother, Valerie, in a shabby London apartment. Lucia has two older half-siblings from Valerie’s first marriage, Ben and Tim. The girl’s father, Colin, has grown emotionally distant since remarrying and retiring to Spain. Worst of all, Valerie drinks and frequently vents her frustration with life on her daughter, which leads to shouting matches and even physical violence. Lucia loathes her mother and uses pain, like radiator burns, to dull the present moment (“Pain pauses time”). Stress also causes a strange pulse to throb between her legs. One evening, Lucia is concentrating on homework when she discovers some water staining her paper. She can’t discern how it got there, but the notion of a leak in the apartment gives her mother hysterical flashbacks to a flood in 1979. The novelty of the situation energizes Lucia, and so she starts spilling water here and there in secret. When Ben becomes involved, he calls out Lucia for the mischief. But the situation becomes serious when a malicious force introduces itself as Ginger and warns Lucia: “Kill or I will.” Does this poltergeist have something to do with Colin’s disconnect from his daughter? In this charged, though delicately wrought period piece, Solomon flashes between 1989 and Lucia’s earlier years visiting her father. Sedate and eerie prose employs the senses fabulously, as in the line “She studies the patch of water. It looks like a goat’s head with horns from where she stands.” Certain details of Lucia’s childhood, including sharing a bed with her father, are odd at first. Later, Colin’s mental health deteriorates and creeping realizations hit Lucia and readers simultaneously. Throughout, seeing her suffer a traumatic adolescence is heartbreaking, and it is to the author’s credit that this narrative proceeds much like a memoir. A psychic investigator speaks to readers in their darkest moments when he tells Lucia: “Flow with life, my child, not against it.”
A quiet thriller that succeeds in mirroring life’s complex and jarring pathways.