cover image Mo Said She Was Quirky

Mo Said She Was Quirky

James Kelman. Other Press, $15.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59051-600-3

A daylong glimpse into the life of a London blackjack croupier, Kelman's latest novel slides easily between scene and free indirect rumination, combining ambitious psychological breadth with the necessary authorial restraint to fully inhabit the mind of Helen. Her musings are first triggered during an early-morning taxi ride when she sees a man who resembles her long-missing brother, Brian. Kelman's streaming prose depicts a typical day for Helen%E2%80%94her anxious thoughts about raising a six-year-old daughter Sophie, or the joys and complications of living with Mo, her Pakistani boyfriend%E2%80%94reflections inspired by idle moments spent gazing at old pictures, riding to work, or waiting for her clothes to dry. It is sometimes a frenetic place to be, as Kelman often shuns punctuation in favor of velocity. Helen tortures herself with unresolved memories, trying to reconcile a past that, with the death of her father and absence of her brother, can never be settled. Often, her cadence runs on like a mantra as she attempts to convince herself: "It happens in families; girl father, boy mother, it is so natural, a natural division, her and Dad, him and Mum; that is it, it is natural..." In the fleeting scenes that actively involve other characters, Kelman (How Late It Was, How Late) also knows how to draw back to near-omniscience, allowing Helen to observe along with the reader. Although sometimes labored, her deft observations are worth a close study. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Apr. 23)