cover image New Animal

New Animal

Ella Baxter. Two Dollar Radio, $15.99 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-953387-12-7

Australian writer Baxter debuts with a raw and mordant story of a woman processing her grief, sexuality, and family relationships. Amelia Aurelia is in her late 20s and working as a cosmetic mortician at her stepfather Vincent’s mortuary, where the steady stream of corpses keeps her constantly aware of mortality. She deals with this by sorting her emotions into two “boxes,” one for the living and one for the dead, and copes most nights by pursuing hookups. When her mother unexpectedly dies, Amelia becomes desperate for connection. Her older brother leans on the man and woman in his throuple for comfort, while Vincent turns to the bottle. Instead of staying for the funeral, Amelia flies to Tasmania to stay with her biological father and explores BDSM with random dates. She also takes a new funeral home job and processes her grief. Baxter delicately balances the emotional heft of the situation with dark humor (Amelia, asked how she identifies while on the way to a kink club, responds, “Human woman, tired, sad, on a date with you, not wholly sure what a sadist is”) and finds clever ways to push Amelia toward coming to terms with her limits. It adds up to a convincing look at a young woman’s path toward self-acceptance. (Feb.)