Shields’s collection of stories, Favorite Monster, playfully demonstrated the full psychological and dramatic potential of the supernatural tale. The same flashes of dark wit are on display in her first novel, which unfortunately doesn’t sustain the haunting energy of its opening scenes set on the Idaho-Washington border. Agnes Roebuck introduces her young son, Eli, to Mr. Krantz, the gigantic, uncouth “hominid” who smells like a “musty bearskin rug singed with a lit match” and for whom she will soon leave her family. The lovers disappear into the woods, leaving only a set of footprints and causing Eli to develop a lifelong obsession with feet big and small. After becoming a successful podiatrist, Eli increasingly devotes more time to hunting Sasquatches (Mr. Krantz in particular) and less to his family, whose members have their own brushes with the supernatural—lake monsters, tentacled shopkeepers, and unicorns. Shields generally deploys these fantastical elements without falling into full-fledged whimsy, but the magical flourishes distract from the central contest between Eli, a man of “nearly hairless pallor,” and his hirsute rival. Moreover, as it lurches from eerie moments of psychological horror to satirical scenes like a nonagenarian attending a “Zoophilia Support Group,” the novel’s tone proves as hard to pin down as the elusive creature at its center. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/13/2014 Release date: 01/27/2015 Genre: Fiction
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