cover image The Suicide of Claire Bishop

The Suicide of Claire Bishop

Carmiel Banasky. Dzanc (Consortium, dist.), $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-938103-08-7

Banasky’s memorable, intricate, and inventive debut novel uses vulnerable characters to probe themes of time, identity, perception, and love. In 1959 Manhattan, Freddie Bishop commissions an artist known only as Nicolette to paint a portrait of his wife, Claire. Unexpectedly, the finished work depicts fragmentary moments in Claire’s life, ending with a leap off the Brooklyn Bridge. Despite Nicolette’s reassurance that the painting will protect her from the fate it depicts, Claire—fearful of her family’s history of mental instability—attempts unsuccessfully to destroy it. When schizophrenic West Butler sees the painting in a gallery in 2004, he becomes convinced that it is the work of his artist ex-girlfriend, also named Nicolette. Spiraling into a delusion of conspiracy and time travel that explains her disappearance from his life and the contradiction in dates, West concludes that the canvas can change reality as well as help him find Nicolette. In the course of stealing it, he meets a man with knowledge of the painting’s past, setting up an encounter between him and Claire that will have transformative effects on both. With its dancing time frames, recurring motifs, glimpses of history, and shifting realities, all united by striking prose, the novel is both an intellectual tour de force and a moving reflection on the ways we try to save ourselves and others. (Sept.)