cover image The Weak Spot

The Weak Spot

Lucie Elven. Soft Skull, $16.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-59376-630-6

Elven’s crisp and creepy debut looks at the transactional nature of relationships and the subtle signals of power at play in small-town dynamics. The young, unnamed narrator takes a pharmacist apprenticeship in a remote mountain community, reachable only by funicular. One of the community’s leading figures is the handsome Mr. Funicular, a costumer who carries a talismanic figurine of a beast said to have once eaten girls alive in the region. Mr. Funicular’s rival for leading town citizen is the protagonist’s new boss, August Malone. Where Mr. Funicular is expansive and artistic, Mr. Malone is authoritarian and businesslike. Other prominent characters include a respected schoolteacher, Mr. Malone’s enigmatic new assistant, and a gossipy pharmacy coworker. Very short chapters focus on the mundane interactions of everyday life, which in Elven’s hands become significant and sometimes ominous, despite (or because of) the heroine’s cool narrative voice. Plot developments are small, except for Mr. Malone’s campaign for mayor that dominates much of the novel, but the arch, skillfully polished prose keeps things intriguing. Elven successfully channels the magic and mood of Kafka’s fables. (Feb.)