cover image Sipsworth


Simon Van Booy. Godine, $26.95 (230p) ISBN 978-1-56792-794-8

Van Booy’s enchanting latest (after The Presence of Absence) depicts the surprisingly touching relationship between an elderly widow and a mouse. After building a life in Australia with her late husband, retired physician Helen Cartwright returns to the English village where she grew up. There, her existence is uneventful, and she’s at a loss over what to live for (“Each day was an impersonation of the one before with only a slight shuffle—as though even for death there is a queue”). Then one night she discovers a mouse in her home and offers it a sip of water from an upturned bottle cap. After the mouse takes a drink, she dubs it Sipsworth. Helen’s quiet world expands thanks to Sipsworth’s companionship as they watch TV and listen to the radio together. Then the mouse shows signs of breathing distress, and Helen, once a renowned pediatric cardiologist, goes into action to save its life. Material that could easily feel saccharine or twee is fresh and often funny, thanks to the author’s artful prose and unsparing characterization of the cantankerous Helen, who at one point calls an animal shelter worker an “idiot” for not accepting mice. Van Booy takes the familiar trope of an aging person’s unexpected renewal and makes it feel new. Agent: Susanna Lea, Susanna Lea Assoc. (May)