Jennifer Ilse Black, 144 pgs, ARP Books, arpbooks.org, $18.95
From the beginning, Fox has known exactly how she’s going to die. It’s like a dark shadow that follows her around, a haunting vision that she makes no attempt to escape.
Author Jennifer Isle Black’s debut novel couples this literary structure with uniquely dark prose to tell the story of a young student activist who must deal with the aftermath of a violent act carried out by one of her comrades. When Fox’s friend, Mink, detonates an explosive beneath the University of Manitoba’s Abbott College, Fox struggles with how to cope. You can feel the panic, the pain, and the trauma in her thoughts. She’s unsure of how to come face to face with Mink’s act, treading the line between forgiveness and confrontation.
Fox’ surreal narration — told through a series of lists, poetry, and structurally experimental writing — takes you on a journey through a rural university campus. In small slivered memories and page-long monologues, Fox relives first meeting Mink, her expanding sickness — brought to the surface through self-harm — and the steps that may have driven her off the edge.
The entire collective is motivated by a drive to punch back at society’s seemingly little compassion for our dying world. The collective’s outrage is the foundation for their identities and is what makes it so difficult for them to come to terms with Mink’s actions.
A master of descriptive imagery and pathetic fallacy, Isle Black takes the reader into every nook and cranny of Fox’s mind, leaving no stone unturned in this heavy, but insightful page-turner.