- I’m really not sure why I decided to read this one – but I’m glad I did.
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Summary from GoodReads:
Ida grew up with Jackson and James—where there was “I” there was a “J.” She can’t recall a time when she didn’t have them around, whether in their early days camping out in the boys’ room decorated with circus scenes or later drinking on rooftops as teenagers. While the world outside saw them as neighbors and friends, to each other the three formed a family unit—two brothers and a sister—not drawn from blood, but drawn from a deep need to fill a void in their single parent households. Theirs was a relationship of communication without speaking, of understanding without judgment, of intimacy without rules and limits.
But as the three of them mature and emotions become more complex, Ida and Jackson find themselves more than just siblings. When Jackson’s somnambulism produces violent outbursts and James is hospitalized, Ida is paralyzed by the events that threaten to shatter her family and put it beyond her reach. Kathleen Alcott’s striking debut, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, is an emotional, deeply layered love story that explores the dynamics of family when it defies bloodlines and societal conventions.
The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets is a debut novel for Kathleen Alcott – but you wouldn’t know it from her writing. This is a complex story about three people: Ida, Jackson, and James. Jackson and James are brothers, and Ida the young girl who grew up with them. The three form a bond as close as family – cemented by mutual loss. They have each lost one parent.
With stark, beautiful language, Alcott puts this story out there, weaving between time successfully. I say she was successful because I was able to move from past to present back to past easily without being confused – and that indicates that something was right. When I read this book I felt as if I was slowly peeling back the petals of an artichoke, each piece giving me just a bit of a taste of the heart to come until it’s there, beautiful and delicious and ready to be savored.
I found so much beauty in this book. There’s an entire chapter in which Ida details everything she knows about Jackson. We learn everything from intimate body details to favorite things. If you’ve ever taken a writing course, you know an exercise is to just write down facts about a character – to get inside that character and know him/her. Well, the chapter that does just that to Jackson is a perfect example of how wonderful that exercise is. I almost wept, it was that beautiful to read.
This is a worthy novel, and one that would not only make excellent book club reading and discussions, but deserves every bit of attention it will doubtless receive. And to think it’s Alcott’s debut… wow. This is an author I’ll be following, for sure.
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- Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
- Published by: Other Press
- Release Date: 9/11/2012