A tale of romantic obsession filtered through its protagonist’s fixations on history and media.
Henry Folsom, our narrator, is a man with a lot on his mind. He's become increasingly obsessed with the Plains Indian Wars of the 19th century—particularly through the lens of Evan S. Connell’s book Son of the Morning Star. His work as a celebrity journalist is eating away at him. But the thing that occupies his mind above all else is his affair with a woman, now absent, who goes unnamed throughout the book. Instead, he speaks of her in the way that others refer to their deity of choice: Henry’s narration capitalizes words like She and Her when referring to his paramour. At times, Henry’s level of focus can be difficult to reckon with: this book is a deep dive into one character’s areas of interest and preoccupation, and the specifics can sometimes venture into the overly idiosyncratic. It’s notable, though, that Cohen maintains some distance between the story he’s recounting and the story as Henry remembers it. Frequently, Henry views events through another telling of them: he mentions the film adaptation of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and his view of the Indian Wars with which he’s obsessed is peppered with nods to Connell’s book rather than to the actual history. And periodically, the plot takes Henry down a notch or two: when he discovers that the object of his affection has Cherokee heritage, he responds, “And you let me go on like that? God, how embarrassing.” These scenes of self-awareness effectively balance Henry's more overwrought moments.
In his debut novel, Cohen manages the impressive feat of memorably documenting obsession without surrendering to it.