Dow’s ambitiously imaginative debut novel questions the very nature of reality.
Seventeen-year-old Mollie Mifflin mysteriously appears one day in Brevity, Iowa, on a mission to locate and befriend Deacon and Emily Molene, two aging writers. Mollie gradually works her way into their lives, taking care of them and their large Victorian house. Because her mother recently kicked out of her own home, Mollie secretly sleeps in the Molenes’ car and eventually in their attic. She’s drawn to the Molenes not because of Deacon’s prolific work, but because she has read and been profoundly affected by Emily’s only novel, Forevermore. Chapters of Emily’s book are interwoven throughout the story, telling the tale of a young honeymooning couple who purchase an antique pair of goblets that can grant the couple one wish. When Mollie unearths the actual goblets from Forevermore in the Molenes’ attic, she conspires to have Deacon and Emily make a wish together. Perhaps the elderly writers will exchange their souls with those of a young married couple of their acquaintance. Mollie’s concern for the souls of the other, younger couple causes her to take serious, potentially violent action to put things right. Readers will find their sentiments shifting as Dow’s dreamlike musings on reality and existence make even the most unlikely events seem possible. With one notable exception, the book is narrated in the first person plural, which sometimes causes the narrator, Mollie, to seem schizophrenic. Perhaps she simply wants to sound that way, or maybe she’s referring to her twin brother, Horace, who died in utero but still speaks to her, a constant presence in her mind. The book’s contemplative pace and conversational prose are offset only rarely by a surfeit of fragmented sentences: “To what was done. To what they did. And how. And why.” However, most readers will likely gloss over these bumps to embrace Dow’s diverting exploration of metaphysical concepts.
Winsome and smartly playful.