cover image Hex


Rebecca Dinerstein Knight. Viking, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-984877-37-6

A young academic develops an unhealthy fixation on her adviser in this arresting novel of obsession from Dinerstein Knight (The Sunlit Night). Nell Barber is expelled from her PhD program in botany at Columbia University, along with the rest of her lab members, after their colleague Rachel Simons dies from exposure to poisonous plants. Nell breaks up with her medievalist boyfriend Tom, gets a job at a bar, and concentrates on completing Rachel’s dangerous work in her apartment to capture the attention of former adviser Joan Kallas, with whom she is obsessed. While Joan tries to steer Nell away from the dangerous project, Joan starts up an affair with Tom, and Nell’s best friend, the gorgeous, high-achieving Mishti, sleeps with Joan’s husband. The narrative takes the form of entries in what is supposed to be Nell’s scientific notebook (which are addressed to Joan), in which Nell discusses the main players’ love affairs and tries to reach conclusions about her would-be mentor. After the details of the affairs emerge at a small holiday party at Joan’s home, Nell loses her chance at an invitation to join Joan’s new research project. Nell’s intensity and the hypnotic, second-person prose convincingly render the protagonist’s bewitched, self-destructive state. Readers who liked I Love Dick and want something more lurid will appreciate this. [em]Agent: Jenni Ferrari-Adler. (Mar.) [/em]