A debut novel examines the ripple effects of mental illness and betrayal on a broken family.
In 1997, Edith is 16; younger sister Mae is 14. Edith is “headstrong” and loyal: She’s spent most of her life caring for her mentally ill mother after her father, Dennis, left the family when she was 4. Mae, nicknamed “Spooks” because of her eerie demeanor, is deeply empathetically connected to their mother in a way that practical Edie is not. When their mother attempts suicide and is hospitalized, the sisters are sent to New York City from Louisiana to live with their father. A famous novelist, Dennis is now faced with Edie’s bitterness and resentment at his betrayal and Mae’s bottomless emotional need for his attention. But the situation appears to be just the dangerous spark he needs to finally write the masterpiece that his early career predicted, and he is willing now, as he was in his marriage to the girls’ mother, to exploit it. Apekina’s decision to structure the novel as a kaleidoscopic whirl of perspectives is perfect: We can see how different Mae's and Edie’s understandings are of their parents’ behavior, and the minor characters that occasionally interject show how the situation appears to those outside the destructive family dynamic. We feel the characters hurtling toward disaster as Edie grows more enraged and turns to her father’s neighbor for help in returning to Louisiana to reunite with her mother and as Mae and Dennis grow mutually more obsessed with each other. Apekina’s inventiveness with structure and sentence marks the book’s every page, and the result is a propulsive and electrifying look at how family—and art—can both break people and put them back together again.
A dark and unforgettable first book.