cover image Without Tess

Without Tess

Marcella Pixley. FSG/Ferguson, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-3743-6174-7

With pensive and darkly lyrical prose, Pixley (Freak) immerses readers in the harsh realities of mental illness and its far-reaching effects. Growing up, sisters and best friends Tess and Lizzie fill their days with magical games, pretending to turn into flying horses and selkies. But as the girls grow older, Lizzie is ready to leave flights of fancy behind while Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her fantasies. In turns dreamy and disturbing, Pixley's story reveals how Lizzie worships fiercely imaginative Tess but suffers as a result of her delusions. When Tess decides that she can't bear the real world any longer, her actions trigger a maelstrom of guilt, grief, and shame that burden the now 15-year-old Lizzie, five years later. Under the guidance of a therapist, acerbic Lizzie revisits Tess's journal (Tess's sublime but sinister poems appear between the book's chapters). Slowly, she inches her way toward understanding the dizzying power of the bond that still holds her to Tess. Pixley's memory play is a difficult, sadly beautiful ode to a complex and heartbreaking issue. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Oct.)