cover image The Drowning Girl

The Drowning Girl

Caitlín R. Kiernan. Roc, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-451-46416-3

Kiernan’s finely crafted stand-alone fantasy guides an artistic young woman through a maze of false memories and blurred realities. A diagnosis of schizophrenia is no surprise to India Morgan Phelps, aka Imp; her “family’s lunacy lines up tidy as boxcars” down the generations. Meds and psychiatry help keep her stable until she meets Eva Canning, who looks just like the woman in The Drowning Girl, an 1898 painting that has enthralled Imp since she was a child. Imp’s need to learn the truth about Eva brings on dreams and memories that can’t be real, and the obsession only gets worse when Eva abruptly disappears. Could Eva be the ghost of the woman who inspired the painter of The Drowning Girl, or a priestess whose worshippers died in a mass drowning in 1991? The chiding voice in Imp’s head urges her to get her stories straight, but how can she when reality keeps changing? Kiernan evokes the gripping and resonant work of Shirley Jackson in a haunting story that’s half a mad artist’s diary and half fairy tale. Agent: Merrilee Heifetz, Writers House. (Mar.)