The first line of this wonderful debut novel caught my attention. “The air still holds the shape of the house.” I thought of it as a painter might create an object through shadows. It’s how I see things. Surroundings help create the subject; the object is not the only thing. What is not visible, less than clear, or otherwise described as junk, is important. Don’t ignore it.
Having finished the book I was probably mistaken. Part of the way through the book it reads: “Nights after her father left, should would lie in bed listening to silence push at the walls and ceilings, listening to the whoosh of it in her ears, knowing that her mother could hear it too. Finally, the house expanded in the darkness, grew large enough to hold the silence that settled in and stayed long into daylight.” This was a troubled house. The silence was disquieting. If the air was sucked out, it might fall.
We sustain ourselves against cancerous memories through consistency and repetition. We wait to grab hold of something solid. Something that we know is reliable – will just be there. It may be the small comfort from an old pan. “Avery didn’t feel like explaining how the sound of it banging against a counter or the bottom of a sink was a comfort-how the soft thud of dishes against the inside, the heat of the water it held, the warm metal smell were markers, things she could count on. Instead she joked that maybe she’d want it for a foot washing at church.”
Pamela Steele is a poet and sometimes I feel there may be one too many metaphors for me. This is nitpicking however, since most metaphors, descriptions and observations are lovely. At the outset the flashbacks which continue throughout the book slowed the flow for me. Part of this may be because I was distracted by other things while reading the book. As I moved through the book it flowed easily. The novel is a short read, but is long on emotion. Well worth your time.
I would hope that Ms. Steele continues to write novels and that her writing receives well deserved attention. Her students at Blue Mountain Community College should feel lucky to have her as a teacher. They will learn to write.