Friday, July 13, 2007

The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis

Did I like this book? I finished it, and that’s saying something. Julia Livshin, writing in the Washington Post, calls Kathryn Davis’s books “an acquired taste,” one which I am not sure whether I’ve quite acquired yet or not.

There’s a story in here somewhere, but it’s certainly not told in a straightforward way. And you all know what I think about THAT. Nevertheless, I was intrigued enough by Davis’s cock-eyed approach to keep reading. The inhabitants of Varennes, a New England village, go about their business, and we hang around with them for a while. They work, go to church, go out for coffee. This very standard story alternates with the tale of a 19th century boating accident known as the “Sunday School Outing Disaster,” and also with the adventures of a dog named Margaret, who gets entire chapters devoted to her exploits, narrated by Margaret herself.

It started just the two of them, Margaret and Cam, but at the pit toilet Buddy joined up. Slowing things down as usual because he got carried away by stuff that wasn’t worth it like leaves or wadded-up tissues…Also, Cam smelled divine and Buddy didn’t. He couldn’t help it. His person sprayed him with something.

Margaret’s person is Mees, a girl who lives in Varennes, and who has the power to bring the dead back to life (both people and dogs) which she does, frequently. And then there are chapters that are totally incomprehensible, like one that begins like this:

It seems solid enough, the world. Drop a thing to the world’s surface from a great height and the thing breaks, painfully if it’s alive.

This chapter goes on to mention Jesus (who pops up frequently); also rabbit warrens, subway systems, missile silos, igneous rock, and the River Kedron. It ends with this sentence: “There are natural laws, but they’re pretty strange, too.”

So is this book.

(Book 30, 2007)


Anonymous said...

Ah, I read this last year and wound up liking it a lot. It's true that it meandered and whatever "plot" it had seemed sort of imposed on it -- the boating accident, the deux ex machina violent scene in the church. What I like, really, was all the creatures' stream-of-consciousness musings. Especially the dogs' points of view -- I'm always wondering what my Labrador is thinking, so that charmed me.

Becky Holmes said...

I liked the dog's POV as well; that's why I included that quote. Also the beaver's. Very clever and original. It reminded me of the chapter in The Final Solution, narrated by the parrot. Is this a trend?

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