cover image The Seventh Mansion

The Seventh Mansion

Maryse Meijer. FSG Originals, $16 (192p) ISBN 978-0-37429-846-3

Meijer’s sharp, enjoyable debut novel (after Rag, a story collection) is a bildungsroman that develops the themes of loneliness, sexuality, nature, and violence that her readers will recognize from her short fiction. After 15-year-old Xie, a vegan environmentalist, and two friends protest animal cruelty by breaking into a mink farm and releasing the animals, Xie is caught and kicked out of high school. He rides his bike everywhere and eats very little, as he is constantly aware of his impact on the environment. He struggles with wanting to take up less space and to be one with the earth, which becomes apparent in his sexual fascination with the bones of a fifth-century Christian martyr that he steals from an abandoned church near his house and caresses at night in bed, imagining a chimeric skeleton body. When he takes radical action against a logging company set on cutting down the forest where he came across the church and his beloved bones, the consequences of his sabotage could be larger than he imagined. This affecting investigation of ethics in a natural world struggling for survival will appeal to readers of character-driven eco-fiction. (Sept.)