Unreliable narrators? Who knows what they’re thinking, doing, how they really feel, and if their version of events is the actual version. No matter what the genre, there’s an air of mystery about the narrator who doesn’t seem like someone whose words should be taken to heart. That’s the beauty of unreliable narrators in fiction: they prompt the reader to take responsibility in the story, to become invested in the plot and its characters, and to somehow remedy mistrust for the purposes of a clear perspective, creating a truly grand finale.
In the locally set novel The Wives by Tarryn Fisher, a woman is married to a man with two other wives… so says she, but she’s never met them and doesn’t know their names. Then she spies the address of his Portland-based wife, and curiosity gets the better of her…
Inspired by true events, The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms reflects on the 1946 lynching of two Black couples on the rural outskirts of Georgia from the perspectives of three characters – one of the victims; the presumed perpetrator; and the narrator, Lonnie Henson, a witness to the murders as a 10-year-old boy.
In Swimming in Darkness by Lucas Harari, the main character drops out of grad school and travels to Vals in the Swiss Alps, home to a thermal springs complex located deep inside a mountain, to research a mysterious architect whose structures contain secrets he can’t prove. The mountain holds many mysteries; it was said to have a mouth that periodically swallowed people up. Pierre, sketchbook in hand, is drawn to the enigmatic powers of the mountain and its springs, and attempts to uncover the truth behind them in the secret rooms he discovers deep within the complex.
In Hell of a Book, or the Altogether Factual, Wholly Bona Fide Story of a Big Dreams, Hard Luck, American-Made Mad Kid by Jason Mott, the protagonist, a nameless Black author on his first book tour, is reeling from his newfound fame and success of his book, Hell of a Book. As he flies to promotional events, often in a drunken stupor, the author reveals that his vivid imagination makes it difficult for him to distinguish reality from fiction. So when he encounters “The Kid,” a dark-skinned 10-year-old boy, the author doubts the boy is real. The Kid, who uncannily resembles a recent victim of police violence, continues to pop up during the book tour, leading the author to recall his own repressed trauma as a bullied Black boy in North Carolina. The author’s sobering recollections of his youth are punctuated with humorous and insightful encounters, tackling what it means to live in a country where Black people perpetually “live lives under the hanging sword of fear.”
And in the darkly humorous novel by Rachel Yoder, Nightbitch, a woman and artist turned stay-at-home mother, disappointed in the new experience of motherhood, slowly turns into a dog.
~ posted by el e.
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