cover image Revenge of the Scapegoat

Revenge of the Scapegoat

Caren Beilin. Dorothy, $16 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-948980-07-4

The explosive latest from Beilin (after the memoir Blackfishing the IUD) is at once a multilayered satire and an earnest depiction of personal pain and loss. Thirty-six-year-old Iris, an adjunct professor at an art school in Philadelphia, receives a package from her estranged father containing letters he wrote her while she was a teenager, in which he blames her for the family’s many troubles. Re-traumatized by receiving these letters and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis so intense the pain speaks to her (“When you are the scapegoat in your family, your body becomes your family. When you get sick, your body begins talking to you, too”), Iris leaves her house and her drug-addled husband, taking off in a friend’s sputtering old Subaru. She ends up in New England with a job as a cowherd at a rural museum where the cows were shipped over from the site of a German concentration camp. It’s a world of art and artifice, where the museum’s husband-murdering benefactor also lives on site. Meanwhile, Iris attempts to forge an understanding of her historic role as the family scapegoat. The author lands on an infectious and perfect blend of cultural criticism, wry writing advice (“Don’t bother writing a character since people change”), and magnificently weird storytelling. Belin’s account of reemergence manages to be both hilarious and deeply moving. (Apr.)