Friday, August 1, 2014

Stunt by Claudia Dey

This is a weird one. I have a hard time with books that are just poetry disguised as novels, and this book at first seemed to fit into that category. Everything is weird and magical and strange, and the sentences are written as if the craziest shit is actually real stuff that happens. It is poetry, and it's quite beautiful, but it's not the sort of storytelling that most of us are used to.

That said, I liked it, because despite the weirdness, there is a linear story here - which is usually what I'm looking for, at least. It is the story of Eugenia, a young woman whose father, Sheb, leaves to "save the world" - leaving a note that mentions, by name, his wife Mink and daughter Immaculata, but not Eugenia. Eugenia takes this as a sign that Sheb is coming back for her, or expects her to follow him. Shortly after the family holds a mock funeral for Sheb, Mink takes off as well. The two girls age to 18 overnight (real? imagined? a metaphor?) and leave to, as the fairy tales would put it, seek their fortune.

Eugenia believes that the key to finding her father is finding her grandfather, a man named I. I. Finbar Me the Three, whom she has discovered in a book about his tightrope walking feats. Along the way she has some strange adventures, of course, and I guess it's a sort of coming of age story.

What I like about the book is that it does have the surrealist blur of childhood. I think we can look back sometimes and it does seem that we grew and aged from nine to eighteen overnight, or that other things happen that seem unrealistic when described like this, but make sense in that blurry recollection of a much younger mind. It's a bizarre, poetic approach to coming of age, but I like that it's a little different while still telling a follow-able story.

What I didn't like was that for a coming of age story, there really wasn't much to grab on to in terms of relatability. I don't know about you, but my experience growing up as a girl didn't hold many parallels to this story. I think the underlying theme of neglect/abandonment is poignant, certainly, but the rest is just too surreal to grab on to. The reason I wasn't so excited to get back to this book each day was the detachment I felt from the characters; they weren't human enough, they floated through the space of the book like dust bunnies and never really grabbed me. I also at times found it to be a bit TOO whimsical, even the darker parts. It's like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl's journal.

There is, surprisingly, a lot of Toronto in the book, including some weird local colour.

I think that, all in all the book wasn't really for me, but I would recommend it to folks who like poetry (or poetic writing) and are otherwise given to this type of story.

Three CN Towers out of five.

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