Eliza Robertson. Bloomsbury, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-63557-070-0
Set in both British Columbia and Southern California, Robertson’s searing debut novel (following the story collection Wallflowers) is a richly layered coming-of-age story exploring the thrills and dangers of a young girl named Willa and her adolescent sexual awakening. The novel takes the form of an impressionistic montage of Willa’s memories, in which she retrospectively interrogates her formative years, beginning in the summer of 1950 when she is nine years old. Willa’s hard-drinking and distant mother invites her Californian boyfriend and his two sons, Kenneth and Patrick, to stay at the family’s Salt Spring Island, B.C., beach house. Willa and her 12-year-old sister, Joan, are left to fend for themselves while the two parents are largely distracted by their own bickering, and while Joan and Kenneth form an immediate bond—they will marry only seven years later—Willa and Patrick’s relationship develops over the subsequent decade through a series of increasingly fraught and experimental sexual encounters and shared secrets, culminating in a devastating tragedy off the San Diego coast that severs their intimate yet often twisted bond. Willa’s memories, from the vantage point of four decades after the accident, map her gradually becoming aware of her own body and how the repercussions of untamed desire can shape futures. Robertson’s deliciously enigmatic style is the perfect analogue to Willa’s absorbing yet deeply haunting journey of self-discovery. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/19/2018
Release date: 04/10/2018
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-670-06827-2
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