Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series
The expectations of fiction—a meaningful goal, a struggle against adversity in pursuit of it, and an ending either healing or tragic, with the quest either succeeding or failing—are cast aside here. With beautiful language and compelling though far from likeable characters, the author tells a tale of poorly understood impulses and incomplete connections.
Tatiana, who calls herself Pluta, is a gloomy girl of fourteen who runs away from boarding school to live on the streets of New York. Isolated at school, cut off from her father—one of Argentina’s disappeared in the late 70’s—and unable to relate to her mother, she has reasons to be unhappy. Exactly why she chooses this way to express her unhappiness is unclear. She was a dark spirit even before her father vanished, before her mother sent her away to the school in Connecticut. It’s Pluta’s nature. Though she’s fascinated by things that fly, she’s neither light nor free. One of the more bizarre things she does is killing a large night-flying insect with one of her aunt’s dictionaries and tasting the stuff that oozes from its body.
The emotional tone of the book is relentless. Even the brighter moments have steel gray overtones, and the explorations of grief and pain are profound. Isabel, Pluta’s mother, seems shallow, and yet her suffering is deep, and it’s dissected and examined, exposing the workings of a heart and mind with both limited insight and strong feelings.
When remarkable, surreal events began about half-way through the book, perhaps planted by Pluta’s consumption of the bug, I wasn’t surprised. The foreshadowing was heavy in that and many other ways. But when this phenomenon emerges, it’s not fulfilled. The exploration came across as if the author changed her mind, but perhaps she intended a theme of unfinished attempts and missed potential. The story could have transcended into magic or descended into hell at that point, but it does neither. Pluta has already been through the worst before this event.
After what she goes through, some sort of transformation or complete dissolution might have resulted, but her crisis, in the long run, seems to leave her unchanged. The only resolution is that we find out what we always knew from the beginning had happened to her father, and that at some mystical level he was connected with his daughter at that moment.
Though many chapters kept me engaged, overall I was left with the feeling of looking at a half-painted canvas by a gifted artist, or the literary equivalent of an unresolved musical tri-tone.