cover image Three Years with the Rat

Three Years with the Rat

Jay Hosking. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-11630-7

Hosking’s smart and spooky debut novel follows an unnamed narrator from the time he moves to Toronto from Vancouver through the period two years later when his damaged sister, Grace, and her doting boyfriend, John, have both vanished, possibly into a parallel universe. The narrator—called “Scruffy” by his friend Lee and “Danger” by his new Tornoto girlfriend—works at an undemanding job that gives him plenty of time to explore the clues left behind by John and Grace, the latter of whom is a psychologist studying the subjective nature of time. There’s a lab rat named Buddy, a notebook written in code, and most notably, a handmade wooden box, lined on the inside with mirrors, which takes up most of the couple’s second bedroom and has some disturbing effects on those who enter it. Hosking grounds the fantasy and philosophical speculation firmly in a detailed version of Toronto in the early 21st century, and his plot bounces nimbly among the three years of the title, answering questions earlier chapters raise while opening up new ones. The ending pays off all the preceding buildup, pulling narrative strands together with satisfying finesse while venturing into new territory. (Jan.)