cover image About Uncle

About Uncle

Rebecca Gisler, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump. Two Lines, $16.95 trade paper (148p) ISBN 978-1-949641-55-4

Gisler’s droll and occasionally disturbing debut features an unlikely trio holed up in a French coastal village in 2020. An unnamed 20-something brother and sister move into the family’s vacation home, which is already occupied by their eccentric uncle. The sister, who narrates, describes them as a band of “involuntary housemates, or a commune of idlers.” Then the pandemic hits, and they’re stuck together. Uncle, as the narrator calls him, is filthy, fat, bald, and prone to reminiscing about his glory days in the Army and his 1980s heavy metal fandom. His other activities include motoring around on a moped and waging war against neighborhood moles. When he’s diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, the narrator and her brother, who both make a living writing copy for a pet food website, are tasked with trying to tame Uncle during his course of anticoagulants. Gisler fills each page with breathless and winding sentences that infectiously convey the narrator’s exasperation with Uncle, who acts as a deliciously disgusting foil, spitting when he eats, peeing in bottles, and forever shuffling around the house in dirty sweatpants. It’s a cockeyed yet authentic depiction of the relentlessness of family obligations. (Feb.)