Lyrical and solemn, The Shades underscores the sense of meaninglessness that follows the death of a family member. Through its piecemeal narration that takes readers through various perspectives, the novel’s characters never quite seem to move past what has happened—instead, it is as though they swim eternally in their own fear of death.
Bridge of Clay is a beautiful, complex book full of subtlety, metaphor, and human connection. It’s a story of many things, not just a child’s attempt to document the loss and redemption of his family, though that is the driving plot line. It’s also about the nature and power of language and to that extent there is a meta-fictional quality to the work.
In some ways, Do the Wrong Thing is a metafictional novel (memoir? meditation? remembered dream?) par excellence, for it contains deliberate errors, metatextual tags, lists and poems, plus the occasional illustration.
The first third of A Thing of the Moment is by far the most successful part of the novel. Its gradual unfolding of the children’s individual lives is compelling and increasingly disturbing, particularly Isabella’s bizarre and horrifying family. Injustice, unfairness, evil – seen through the eyes of a child, these things have an existential weight and determining force that can distort a life forever.
A Biography of a Chance Miracle is a collection of stories that appear unnoteworthy at first glance, but swell and fill the imagination as one reads them. The final twist is both perfectly surreal and perfectly logical in a book whose hero’s stubborn faith—in herself, if nothing else—is nothing short of magic.
With its descriptions of a collective madness sparked by mendacity and greed disguised as irresistible ‘progress’, Welcome to Saint Angel has literary antecedents in the cynical realism of Sinclair Lewis and the paranoid desperation of Nathaniel West, plus a liberal dose of Gore Vidal in his Duluth mood.
Cameron’s first novel is not your usual mystery/love story. For one thing, her book has seventy-nine mosquitoes (but no sand-flies or ticks) squashed between the pages and they certainly give this story atmosphere. In fact there are experiments with mosquitoes, mosquitoes in jars and cages; yes so many hungry bloodsuckers and all just a figurative screen door away from biting you.
In her short story collection, Shelf Life of Happiness, Virginia Pye has a character, Nathan, in the title story, remarking about the “long shadow” that “Papa” casts over “lesser writers.” If Ms. Pye ever felt overshadowed by the great Ernest Hemingway, or compelled to imitate his style, she has overcome it.
There is a solitary quality to Saul’s first person narrative, which isn’t exactly stream of consciousness, though the truncated sentences and visual imagery has a poetic and interior feel. The reader discovers this landscape through Saul’s perceptions and they continually return to the elemental – the earth, the rhythm of time, the ocean.
Comparisons aside, Jamie and Girl from Blind River stand on their own as remarkable achievements in popular literature. Gale Massey has a poet’s eye for the telling detail, and can evoke a feeling with a few deftly written words. Readers don’t need to be told Jamie is poor after Massey has her searching “the remaining pizza boxes until she found a piece of crust and chewed it while she watched the [poker] hand play out.”