felt familiar to me. “I have been asked, I’m afraid, to explain myself,” says the narrator, Angela, a former graduate student, who finds herself both personally and professionally lost after the death of her husband and her ousting from academia. This opening sentence, a direct address to the reader, reminded me of the controlled intimacy of Marguerite Duras’s “The Lover.
The book begins in the middle of Angela’s life and in the midst of her unrepentant confession. She is facing the fallout from a series of tragedies, all of which have taken place before the very first line of the novel. She has lost her spouse and her career, had a miscarriage, and reluctantly accepted a job with a barely livable wage, one in which — despite having no training — she is expected to help nonspeaking patients with motor impairments learn to communicate.
Consequently, duBois takes these ideas one step further by asking readers to participate in the narrative action. “Say my mind was already lost,” Angela pleads through her confession, “say I never had one to begin with. Say my mind is not the problem, but my conscience, my moral compass, my soul.” Retelling one’s own story relinquishes it to the audience. Once read it belongs to the readers; it is now our story to doubt, to misremember, to retell from the shaky ground of our own biases. headtopics.com
The novel’s narrative conceit may seem simple at first, the confession of a narrator — the implication of a reader — but there is nothing simple aboutduBois challenges the form at every turn, first through a masterfully paced narrative interwoven with philosophy and literary criticism, then through a genuine meditation on the transformative and illusory effects that language and love can have, both on one another and on ourselves.
Lina M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas is the author of “Drown Sever Sing,” and “Don’t Come Back” from Mad Creek Books. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at the University of Chicago’s creative writing program and writes about monsters.We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. headtopics.com