cover image Binary Star

Binary Star

Sarah Gerard. Two Dollar Radio (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-937512-25-5

A teacher in training struggles with anorexia and a troubled relationship in this fast-moving debut novel in verse by Gerard (author of the chapbook Things I Told My Mother). The unnamed narrator, who weighs 98 pounds at the story's outset, thinks about her hunger, fear, guilt, and personal disgust while reflecting on her tumultuous long-distance relationship with her alcoholic lover, John. She recalls the previous winter when she and John drove along the perimeter of the continental United States. The narrative follows the couple's journey northwest from John's apartment in Chicago, south down the Pacific coast, east across the South, and north alongside the Atlantic. As their respective compulsions grow increasingly out of control, their relationship begins to resemble a dying star. Gerard's spare and methodical prose mirrors the narrator's obsessiveness. Many passages read like concise notes taken at an astronomy lecture, and the narrator speeds through the events and dialogue of her road trip with John, listing details rather than describing them. The pages catalogue consumption: what characters eat and drink, what they read, what pills they take and how often. The cold distance of the protagonist's tone also complements the form of the book and its allusions to outer space. Gerard has produced a powerful, poetic, and widely relatable novel that eludes easy classification. (Jan.)