cover image Testament


Vickie Gendreau, translated from the French by Aimee Wall. BookThug (SPD, U.S. dist.; LPG, Canadian dist.), $20 trade paper (153p) ISBN 978-1-77166-252-9

Author and poet Gendreau began writing this moving "autofictional" novel after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2012. The book examines her life and looks forward, contemplating her death (which came in May 2013, when she was 24) and the effect it will have%E2%80%94and its inevitability has already had%E2%80%94on her friends and loved ones. It is broken into sections in which the author bequeaths poems and fennec foxes to certain individuals, and constructs testimonials and commentary imagining how she will be remembered. Wall's translation preserves Gendreau's vulnerability and honesty as she dwells on an unrequited love and her regret over not being there for a friend prior to his suicide. The novel switches between larger blocks of text%E2%80%94from Gendreau, her inner circle of friends and family, and several noms de plume she employs to briefly step outside herself%E2%80%94and point-form poetry that reads sometimes like synapses firing abstractly and at random. While the text suffers at times from a feeling of emotional separation, with its construction and intentional artistry overwhelming its seemingly more impassioned and naked aspects, the journey through the end of Gendreau's life and beyond remains delicate, introspective, and wholly unusual. It is a literary trip worth taking. (Oct.)