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Two deaf girls, one dead and one living, struggle to forge relationships and wax philosophical in this melancholy novella by Lee (The Cake Thief, 2007, etc.).

Sam, a partially deaf (or, rather, “imperfect”) young female artist, dies when she trips over the curb and is struck by a car. In Heaven, she talks to a generic God and watches over her parents and the young couple who accidentally killed her. In a stream of consciousness ranging from elegiac to casual, Sam muses about her mixed relief and regret over her death–the pleasantries of Heaven and the disappointment of dying before she found love. Meanwhile, on Earth, the rich, self-centered couple gives birth to an “imperfect” daughter of their own. Lilly, deaf from birth, is also an artist. And like Sam’s parents, the couple is unable to fully cope with their child’s deafness and their increasing disconnection from her. When Lilly attends a college program for the hearing impaired, she becomes involved with her professor Ned, and her fights with her mother over the affair further the divide. Eventually, a restless Lilly goes abroad to France for art school, taking a break from her clueless parents and effectively ending her relationship with Ned. She graduates and enters academia, but continues to misunderstand and be misunderstood by the world before eventually reconnecting with Ned. Although the characters’ lives are connected superficially, the only meaningful relationship is between Lilly and Ned–and even that, which begins effortlessly if mystifyingly, becomes strained. Lee’s illustrations add vague visual interest, but her writing is uneven, not to mention riddled with errors. The prose is dreamy and unhurried, sometimes as warm as a sun-drenched room, but too often turns stale, even tedious. The characters’ reflections on life and love, meant to be insightful, more often come across as simplistic and pedestrian. Sam’s ruminations on the nature of God in particular are insufferably trite.

Languid but disjointed story fails to forge any connection with the reader.

Pub Date: March 24th, 2005
Program: Kirkus Indie
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