cover image Her Here

Her Here

Amanda Dennis. Bellevue Literary, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-942658-76-4

Dennis attempts a Modianoesque detective story in her lukewarm debut. The book begins as Elena, 29, an American working on a dissertation about filmmaker Chris Marker in Paris, is contacted by Siobhan, a family friend. Siobhan had given up her daughter, Ella, in an open adoption years ago. After Siobhan received Ella’s journals out of the blue, postmarked from Thailand, she contacted Ella’s adoptive parents and discovered Ella had gone missing. Siobhan, believing Elena is a writer, proposes Elena rewrite the journals to help Siobhan “see” Ella. The premise is part of the book’s problem; Siobhan’s request is so improbable that it’s difficult to take seriously. The journals, written while Ella was living in Chiang Rai, Thailand, start out as a fairly normal travelogue, but as Ella’s relationship with a young Canadian “avid sensualist” sours, Ella begins to drift. Elena, as she obsessively reads and writes, becomes preoccupied with the journals and Ella’s life, and with her own grief for her dead mother, who struggled with mental illness. Descriptions of Paris and of Chiang Rai are sharp and lovely, and many of the questions the plot raises pique, though the dialogue feels stilted. This never fully comes to life. Agent: Marya Spence, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Mar.)