This story, told by the younger half of a runaway mother-and-child duo, provides an enigmatic narrator with an opportunity to challenge readers’ assumptions about family, gender, and home.
Taylor’s (The Shore, 2015) storyteller, the androgynous Alex, recounts (from a future vantage point) the sequence of unsettling events they encountered while roaming the country with “Ma,” their mother. Ma and the barely pubescent Alex abruptly depart their stifling home, leaving Alex’s elusive father behind, and spend the next few years living a hand-to-mouth existence on the road, following an itinerary Ma has charted on a mysteriously annotated map. As they crisscross the country, Ma settles scores, pays debts, and pays it forward while Alex deals with the effects of deracination and gender fluidity. Ma’s quest, focused on reconnecting with a series of women friends—the “Lauras”—from her hardscrabble youth, provides both mother and child with myriad opportunities for self-revelation. Taylor’s quiet, precise prose creates a sense of dreary place after place on the pair’s odyssey and never conveys a clue about Alex’s anatomy. Rather than serving as a parlor trick, Alex’s androgyny works as a reminder about preconceived notions of identity and offers readers a narrative stripped of gender-specific conventions; Alex’s ambiguous, aching forays into the realms of sexuality and human relations speak to universal truths about trust as well as lust. The realities of living life with a serial bolter reveal to Alex the myriad ways in which a home can be assembled and reassembled over time as Taylor propels the duo past external and internal mile markers. Some stops on the journey may seem superfluous or less important than others that are more finely drawn. Taylor, however, never allows her travelers to veer too far from the path they need to follow.
Taylor gives her narrator a singular voice and dares the world to listen.