cover image Eggshells


Caitriona Lally. Melville House, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61219-597-1

In this whimsical debut novel, Lally chronicles the wanderings of Vivian, a lonely woman who believes herself to be a fairy whose days are spent searching Dublin for the “thin places” that might return her home, “portals to another world.” In between these outings she visits with her friend Penelope, whom she meets after posting an advertisement for someone of that name in hopes of figuring out “why she doesn’t rhyme with antelope,” and her straightlaced sister, who, as Vivian observes, “copes better with her own words than with mine.” Words, in fact, are Vivian’s primary concern. She makes lists of eccentric names to write in her “notebook of certainties” and muses about having the letter K abolished (“a good ‘C’ or a double ‘CC’ would do nicely”). As Vivian’s inquiries about a door to Oz or Hades are met by strangers who blink in response like they have “just come out of the cinema into the sunlight,” Lally’s charmingly droll prose takes on a desperate edge. Having suffered a parade of predictable disappointments, Vivian is no closer to fitting in than she began, and her greatest fantasy is as commonplace as eliciting a laugh over drinks with friends. “They’re bent double and drink is pouring out their noses,” she imagines, “but that is just the start of my jokes, there are more.” (Feb.)