CBR11Bingo – Rainbow Flag
This novel was recently released and it reminds in some direct ways of other Florida writers. The most obvious connection would be to Karen Russell’s Swamplandia, a novel I really disliked, but by way of Harry Crews, a writer who I have mixed feelings about, but have enjoyed a few of his books.
This book has some clear strengths, and some unfortunate weaknesses.
There’s a lot to the context of the story. We are dealing with our narrator Jessa-Lynn, who finds her father’s dead body in the family taxidermy shop. He has died from suicide. She is in her thirties, has a brother a few years younger, an 18 year old nephew, a mother who’s connection with reality will become frayed, and she’s completely in love with her brother’s wife and the mother of her nephew, and always has been. The novel then works along three different timelines: her childhood with her father and learning the taxidermy trade and living in his presence, her adolescence being in love with, being with, losing, and dealing with the back and forth relationship with Brynn, and present day as her mother has decided to turn the leftover taxidermy artifacts into salacious animal art in sexual positions. She also becomes involved with the art dealer who showed up, fascinated by her mother’s work.
So yeah, that’s a lot to work with. The voice of the narrator is generally quite strong and often lacks subtly and nuance in a way that doesn’t feel like a character trait, but an author refusing to allow the audience to work at meaning. That’s one of the primary weaknesses. The other primary weakness is that once you strip away the curiosity of the various contexts and conceits of the book, it’s not saying much we haven’t heard before.
What is solid about the book is that the story does work and explores some interesting territory and takes risk in those conceits, even if the plot itself does not. It’s an adequately good story in a richer context.