The Listeners

Leni Zumas, Author
Leni Zumas. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-935639-29-9
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
Open Ebook - 353 pages - 978-1-935639-30-5
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Zumas’s debut novel comes at the reader in over a hundred self-contained, lucid pieces: a visit to a doctor in which Quinn, the teenage narrator, is ominously evasive about her weight loss; siblings bantering around the dinner table in a free fall of time; a dream of octopi, creatures that become a motif, much like John Irving’s bear. Even happy memories have a melancholy undertone because Quinn is grieving the death of her sister, who is also revealed in fragments (“She became a woman three months before she died”). Of siblings Fod, Mert, and Riley, Riley is the most three-dimensional and the closest to Quinn. Zumas’s tone is crisply naturalistic, slightly off center, and downright surreal, sometimes all at once, though often starting as one and drifting into another. The novel’s tantalizing form approximates Quinn’s mental and emotional state; she isn’t in the traditional fog of grief, she’s hyper-observant and arch: “The pong of cheap meat and fry oil hung on the air,” and “From the subway I climbed to a street ateem with suited normals and walking-homers....” For all this, plot threads are mostly explicable, creating a compelling build-it-yourself tapestry of cherished memories and open wounds. (May)
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