cover image The Doloriad

The Doloriad

Missouri Williams. MCD, $16 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-3746-0508-7

Williams debuts with a bizarre and strangely beautiful story of an incestuous family surviving in a postapocalyptic wasteland. A woman known as “the Matriarch” started a family with her brother. Jan, the oldest of their many children, made his own family with his sister Agathe. Dolores, the Matriarch’s first daughter, described by the omniscient narrator as “fat,” “stupid,” and without legs, is resented by Agathe for her inability to help with the farming. After the Matriarch has a vision of another family who survived their ruined world, she sends Dolores away to be married. The younger siblings, meanwhile, resist the Matriarch’s calls to procreate, and spend their time watching episodes of an old TV show called Get Aquinas in Here on VHS tapes, in which the medieval philosopher comments on various disturbing situations. One of the show’s stories involves a girl who is admired by her community, but hated by her epileptic brother, whose seething grows into an incestuous lust. The dreamlike narrative can be hard to follow, but Williams’s lyrical, visceral prose (“Dolores shuffled in her skin, as though she wanted to shuck it off”) brilliantly sustains her nightmarish vision. This bold and demented effort is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but those who like it will be really into it. Agent: John Ash, Pew Literary. (Mar.)