THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA
In his well-received story collection (Things That Fall from the Sky), Brockmeier was hailed as a writer of sinuous, startling prose. That skill is on full display again in this haunting, subdued debut novel, presented as if written by one Christopher Brooks, a science-fiction writer. In 1997, Christopher lives happily with his wife, Janet, and seven-year-old daughter, Celia, in a beautifully preserved 19th-century house in a peaceful small town. One morning, while Celia and her father are home alone, Celia vanishes from the backyard. There are no clues, no suspects. In successive stand-alone chapters, Brockmeier wanders ever further from a straight recounting of events. He describes the aftermath of Celia's disappearance from the perspective of the community at large, then turns Celia's story into a fantasy about an otherworldly green-skinned child, and finally imagines Celia in a new incarnation as a single mother called Stephanie. Christopher's and Janet's numbness—they show little rage, frustration or grief—is skillfully rendered, if sometimes oppressively subtle. Christopher lives in a hazy world of guilt, while Janet commits a few quiet acts of rebellion, disrupting the showing of a movie and finally drifting away from her husband. Brockmeier's prose is measured and lovely, and he sketches a number of eerie and compelling scenes, including those in which Christopher believes he receives telephone calls from the missing Celia on a toy phone that she treasured. The fragmented narration may deflect some readers, but others will cherish Brockmeier's seductive turns of phrase and sharp imagination. Agent, Kyung Cho.(July 8)
Forecast:Readers who championed The Lovely Bones—as well as those who felt it didn't live up to the hype—will enjoy measuring it against Brockmeier's similarly themed novel.