An ambitious debut expresses different versions of maternal need through three female voices, notably that of Lucy, a girl who is “different.”
There’s a whiff of American Gothic about Sarkissian’s claustrophobic evocation of life on the chicken farm where frustrated Missus yearns for a child and taciturn Mister looks suspicious in the light of adopted daughter Stella’s pregnancy and disappearance. Now, two new girls live there: Samantha, also pregnant, whose baby is destined to be handed over to Missus; and mentally challenged, behaviorally troublesome Lucy, whose mother has instructed her not to leave the farm so that she can come and reclaim her. Sarkissian describes desperation on one side and deceived otherworldliness on the other as Lucy’s interior landscape is revealed as a struggle for comprehension, memory and expression, lit with shafts of insight and fantasy. Lucy may be intellectually limited, but she understands, indeed obsesses over, love, family and parenting, which is why she wants to help Samantha and her baby join the father and become a unit. Using Samantha and Missus as alternative first-person narrators helps break up the monotony and oppressiveness of Lucy’s stream of consciousness, but there’s still a sense of overload to this novel as well as the questionable magic-realist involvement of a talking chicken.
A daring, somewhat formless mix of thriller, whimsy and intense emotional portraiture. Shorter would have been better.