First-person fiction in the guise of an impressionistic memoir by an older woman recalling her small-town girlhood.
Many of the paragraphs in Savage's (The Way of the Dog, 2013, etc.) latest are made up of a single sentence, and most of them seem to stand on their own, not necessarily connecting to the previous one or the next, each isolated by white space. It’s as if the paragraphs are snowflakes, each unique, yet creating a cumulative effect through accretion. This is writing about writing, words about words, remembering through the distortions and inventions of memory. Many of the paragraphs, often many in a row, start with the words “I remember….” Others begin with “The time” and are often a series of sentence fragments, such as “The time Edward squeezed my head so hard it hurt.” Edward is one of the narrator’s two brothers, with whom she has lost all contact. Her other brother is Thornton—“And Thornton too without children, so it will end with us, probably.” Next paragraph, with rare continuity: “Which is for the best. I don’t see that we represent anything anymore.” The entirety of the novel takes place within the consciousness of the woman writing at her desk, much as she remembers that her mother once did. The reader senses that the mother went mad and wonders whether this is a reflection of the narrator’s projection: “Writing at the desk I sometimes get the feeling that I am my mother….I have no idea what the sentence I just wrote means.” Almost as an aside, she writes, without any explanation, that “having become thoroughly estranged from my parents by the time they died I am estranged from their ghosts as well.”
This is not a novel for anyone who expects time to move in a straightforward fashion or for memories to cohere or for beginnings and endings to be other than arbitrary.