Beckoning by Richard Blanchard


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This compact, allusive novella investigates the unexplained deaths of an old man, a young woman, and two dogs found in an Upper West Side residence.

In Blanchard’s previous short novel, Care Giver (2013), a teenage paperboy meets a dying old man named John. The teen later adopts the old man’s name as well as his memories of a lost love named Margo, whose reality is questionable but seemingly authenticated by photos and news clippings. Beckoning opens and closes with news stories but mainly features alternating first-person narratives, which are, as in Care Giver, interspersed with photographs of scenes. An old man named John meets a 28-year-old woman as they both walk their dogs in a New York City park. He greets her as Margo, but she says her name is Gail. There’s confusion on this point, however; the woman, an aide on a dementia unit, explains that a patient, Miss Thompson, “thinks that I’m her long-lost daughter Gail and there’s nothing I can do to change her mind.” The old man’s and young woman’s lives become mingled, and Blanchard walks a difficult, thoughtful line between poignancy, hope, and compassion on one hand and an exploration of the possible dangers of entanglement with possible strangers on the other. The author mirrors this pattern with Miss Thompson, who confesses that she gave a child “to The Lord”; later, Gail tells John that she was a foundling herself. Blanchard shows the powerful emotion in the careful way that John weighs his words to Gail, hoping to make her smile, trying not to frighten her, and needing her to be his Margo. The story also hints at danger when John remembers that he was unable to save Margo from an avalanche, and Gail wonders whether she should bring John “ help give him some peace of mind.” As the novella closes, Gail identifies herself more closely with Margo and finds herself beckoned to John’s numinous fate.

A compact, potent mystery with sentences that have the condensed power of poetry.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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