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Jane F. Kotapish, . . MacAdam/Cage, $24 (300pp) ISBN 978-1-59692-283-9

Kotapish offers in her unnerving debut a frustrating tale of a woman’s struggle to keep her past from overtaking her present. The nameless narrator leads readers through the mazes of her memory, from a childhood spent talking to the ghost of her dead sister, Nancy, through her adult trauma of watching someone get run over by a subway car, and finally to Virginia, where she lives in a ramshackle house. Her cruel mother, Lois, whose sanity is also constantly called into question, becomes the axis on which the narrator’s story spins in disjointed bits. The more the narrator reveals, the less reliable she becomes, calling into question whether Nancy is indeed the ghost of her dead sister or simply the personification of repressed grief and resentment. Within this aching knot of remembrance, Kotapish frequently lets her language and attention meander, stringing random thought together in unseemly pastiches that verbosely wind their way to dead ends. The novel has an overly indulgent feel, though some may appreciate the empowering ending. (Mar.)