cover image The Spokes

The Spokes

Miranda Mellis. Solid Objects (SPD, dist.), $14 (48p) ISBN 978-0-9844142-4-6

With prose that seamlessly blends the absurd, the melancholic, and the inscrutable, Mellis offers a fresh and vivid version of the afterworld in her slim new book (after None of This Is Real). In Mellis's singular vision, the land of the dead is neither heaven nor hell, but a "realm whose primary substance is not time%E2%80%94" a world accessible only by intermittent ferry and where dreams are "movies for the dead" and gelatin is the only food. The novella's narrator, Lucia Spoke, finds herself adrift in this strange world and soon reconnects with the specter of her mother, Silver, a tightrope walker whose death (possibly a suicide) has haunted Lucia throughout her life. What follows is less a story than an irresistible accumulation of moments, language, and imagery as Silver and Lucia wait for a message, a clue to tell them where to go or what to do next. Readers may find themselves in a similar situation as they meander through this brief book, waiting for an epiphany that never quite emerges. Those who expect their plots tidy and their themes spelled out will likely be frustrated, but for the more adventurous, this captivating novella offers a sensory experience that will linger long after this quick read is over. (June)