cover image Labrador


Kathryn Davis. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17.95 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-374-18251-9

With extraordinary imagination and language, Labrador marks the debut of an unusual talent. On the surface a novel about the complex relationship between two sisters, it is also a frequently funny and often confounding tale that leaps from angels to demons and from ordinary life in a New Hampshire household to wild and enigmatic fables beyond all time and place. Willie, the older sister, is strikingly beautiful but contrary, and not the least bit sweet. She is a graceful dancer who grows to loathe her family``Mr. Noodle, the Mouse Queen, and Little Kitty.'' Kitty, a too-tall loner, becomes more and more accustomed to reinventing the world rather than confronting it. Often left at the mercy of the eccentric and superstitious Irish housekeeper, Kitty creates a cast of characters that inhabits her imagination. The feature player is Rogni, a somewhat inept angel, whose stories help Kitty to tune out her father's drinking and her mother's incompetence. When a long-lost grandfather appears, Kitty finds the approval and warmth she has long craved from a blood relation. She is so taken with the old man that she agrees to travel to the far reaches of Labrador, where he lives in primitive style with a woman of whom no one in the family approves. The events that follow, like one of Rogni's fables, are fantastic and bizarre. This is a mysterious, magical book, brimming with haunting images. (July)