Dean Garlick, illustrated by Nicole Legault,80 pgs, Lodge Press, deangarlick.com, $14
When we first encounter Chloe Fortin,the titular character in Dean Garlick’s latest novella, things aren’t particularly terrific. She’s mourning a recent breakup and seems to have lapsed into a severe depression, moping around her Montreal apartment, avoiding friends and work. A parakeet mysteriously lands on her windowsill; she names it Viktor. She starts finding cigarette packs and opened bottles of wine around the house, with no recollection of buying either. Later, she slouches past the bank where she works, and sees herself working at the counter, serving customers as normal. Are there really two Chloes? Or has she truly lost it once and for all?
Chloes is alternately funny, disturbing, surreal and tragic — Dostoyevsky’s The Double with a distinctly acerbic and feminine touch. Garlick’s Chloe is an unreliable narrator to be sure, but there’s a lot of fun in this uncertainty, and she is beautifully realized. Anyone who’s suffered through a particularly haunting breakup — and the resultant bout of depression — will relate to the dregs of Chloe’s existence.
Her flaky ex, Anson, is particularly well drawn — he’s the Kombucha-swilling,underemployed, accordion-playing type of Montrealer who’s almost immediately recognizable. Still, as Chloe’s memories of their relationship play through the narrative, his presence (and lack thereof) represents a darker burden, one that she ultimately has to claw away from in order to reclaim a singular existence. Nicole Legault’s delicate, evocative B & W illustrations deepen the book’s strange tone. (Alison Lang)