cover image The Shades

The Shades

Evgenia Citkowitz. Norton, $25.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-393-25412-9

Citkowitz’s ethereal latest (following Ether) dissects the messy tangle of past and present in the aftermath of a young woman’s death. A fatal automobile accident involving 16-year-old Rachel and her secret boyfriend fractures the Hall family. Rachel’s mother, Catherine, remains in the family’s second home in Kent, disengaged from life and her work as a successful art gallery owner until the arrival of a mysterious young woman who claims to have lived in the house as a child. Catherine’s growing interest in the stranger after months of depressed detachment heartens her husband, Michael, who has been spending his days and nights in London and yearning for a return to easily connecting with his wife. Their reticent son, Rowan, flees to a remote, liberal boarding school to reshape his life away from his sister’s death. His sudden, passionate fixation on the threat of global warming and his decision to drop out of school jolts the family from their long patterns of uncommunicative coexistence. Citkowitz meanders through her scant plot with ample atmospheric detours through the family’s past. Her depiction of the delicate, complicated attachment of siblings is particularly touching. The prose sparkles as she unpacks emotional wounds, but the threads of story remain too hazy and incomplete to be fully satisfying. This compact family drama captures the thinly masked desperation of grief with an eerie undercurrent. (July)