New fiction about missing family members

Like Aisha, Em’s journey to find a lost loved one involves a multitude of colorful and crazy characters who may or may not exist. As we ...


Like Aisha, Em’s journey to find a lost loved one involves a multitude of colorful and crazy characters who may or may not exist. As we learn more about this family, the novel becomes more and more disorienting; although it seems intentional, the more Em disentangles, the more attention span the reader does as well. If Corin’s intention was chaos, it worked. Like any book with an unreliable narrator, “The Swank Hotel” makes it difficult to discern what is real from what is imagined. The reader must determine for himself what is really going on before knowing what to get out of it.

Corin writes his characters and their suffering from direct experience. In the acknowledgments, she writes: “This book is inextricably linked to the life and spirit of Emily Hochman,” her sister, a Berlin-based visual artist. But Hochman’s husband claimed, in a Medium article, that details of his wife’s mental health issues were used in this story without her consent. Arguably, novelists often borrow from their own lives or from the lives of people they know; but ethics are never settled, especially when the book afflicts others.

Ethical issues aside, there is much to admire in this tale of adult brotherhood and mental instability, which is reminiscent of, though a little less memorable, the exceptional “” by Miriam ToewsAll my little sorrows“And” Oyinkan Braithwaite “My sister the serial killer. “Burning slowly and tender,“ The Swank Hotel ”expresses the frustration and agony of watching someone you love battle their demons while battling yours.

THE SPECTACULAR
By Zoé Whittall
354 pages. Ballantine. $ 28.

Whittall’s fourth novel begins with Missy, a 21-year-old rock star who unsuccessfully tries to persuade a doctor to sterilize her so that she can have as much sex as she wants while on tour with her punk band, the Swearwolves. . Detained at the Canadian border for possession of cocaine (“in my defense, there’s actually no more cocaine in there, but it’s not the smallest bag of flour in the world”), Missy reads in a magazine that Carola, the ex-mother who abandoned her at 13, is now involved in a cult of sexual yoga. (Who among us?) The news makes Missy wonder if Carola really was such a bad mother after all.

Alternating between the points of view of Missy and Carola, “The Spectacular” traces their imperfect reunion while ticking many boxes of feminist fiction: sexual positivity, female bodily autonomy, gatherings for abortion, lesbianism. While Whittall’s plot is quite meaty – about the mother-daughter bond that defines us, destroys us, restores us – there’s nothing really spectacular here. The book doesn’t add much to the already saturated sub-genre of books on the complexities and qualified triumphs of modern femininity.

For a novel about women defying social expectations, “The Spectacular” makes women themselves too unsympathetic to take root. “The most depressing birthday ever? Missy wrote in her journal, drawing “a sad, withered flower before I can remember, it’s probably a hangover mood, not real feelings.” In fact, my life is pretty good. It’s hard to disagree: she does what she wants, sleeps with whomever she wants, her only “mission to be friendly, fun and perfectly relaxed, even if I am none of that”. On Carola’s part, even when she finally tries to be the mother of her child, she still can’t seem to put herself in the background. Most of us felt like a failure, we felt we were never good enough. But the self-awareness that Whittall portrays never leads women beyond itself. (The most interesting character, Missy’s 80-year-old grandmother, Ruth, unfortunately gets little page time.)

Despite the characters’ ambivalence about motherhood, Whittall wrote a competent and very readable testimony to the strength of the motherly bond, even after years of being apart. “His worry sounded like a drug,” Missy thinks of Carola’s protective warnings, themselves intoxicating. “I was starting to feel dizzy because of our proximity. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: New fiction about missing family members
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