Exploring the malleability of memory, time, and reality, Boorman (Heartfire, 2016, etc.) sends two estranged siblings on a surreal road trip in search of their dysfunctional parents.
Eighteen-year-old Jory Brewer, born with his face partially paralyzed by Moebius syndrome, grew up resenting his now 16-year-old sister. Liv grew up in the spotlight of beauty pageants with their histrionic mother, leaving Jory to deal with their volatile, alcoholic father. But when their parents vanish just as Liv’s about to sue them for emotional damages (again), the siblings join forces. Driving through the Nevada heat in pursuit of their parents, they detour abruptly into a surreal landscape, haunted by déjà vu at every turn. Some readers might guess where the story’s heading, but the destination takes a back seat to painstaking character development as Liv’s and Jory’s alternating perspectives poignantly reckon with their individual and shared past and present. The author deftly handles a number of issues, including disability and the skeevy underside of pageants and reality shows, but the overarching theme is a sensitive exploration of child abuse and neglect. Though their parents are caricatures, Jory and Liv each grapple with realistic damage, such as rages, fear of being like one’s parent(s), and learned helplessness. As the siblings finally compare notes, their reconciliation gives closure to the otherwise open ending. Jory and Liv are assumed white; Liv has a tentative crush on a girl.
Vexing, poignant, and thought-provoking. (Thriller. 13-18)