Fish in Exile

Vi Khi Nao. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-56689-449-4
Nao’s (The Old Philosopher) probing, wrenching novel follows a married couple after the deaths of their two children. Two years following the deaths, husband Ethos and wife Catholic have drifted apart: Catholic is sleeping with the couple’s neighbor, Callisto; Ethos has left his job as a school principal and spends his days wandering around their seaside New England home and trying to mend their marriage. The couple’s searching and sometimes troubled psychological states manifest themselves in strange ways: Ethos builds small coffins and buries dead jellyfish; Catholic fashions outfits for their two fish (“I am behaving so strangely. I know I can’t turn a dress or a fish into a little girl, but my heart itches”). Midway through, Ethos’s mother, Charleen, visits them with her own troubled baggage. The novel’s language can become too abstract, but Nao skillfully grounds the story through mundane objects (Ethos methodically constructs aquariums for their fish, while Catholic at one point imagines deconstructing a bike into its individual parts), and direct, often funny dialogue: one particularly memorable exchange occurs when a boy asks Catholic why all their pictures are hung backward, and she replies they’re in time-out for capturing too much. The result is a novel that forges a new vocabulary for the routine of grief, as well as the process of healing. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-56689-450-0
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