A detective travels to the heart of a mysterious snow forest in this existential mystery about desire, hauntings, and the failure of language.
When the unnamed narrator of Mexican author Rivera Garza’s (The Iliac Crest, 2017, etc.) gothic noir accepts the case of a missing couple, she feels haunted by all the cases she has failed to solve. “The case of the woman who disappeared behind a whirlwind. The case of the castrated men. The case of the woman who gave her hand, literally,” she thinks. Intrigued and alarmed by her client's tragic description of the Taiga Syndrome, in which “inhabitants of the Taiga begin to suffer terrible anxiety attacks and make suicidal attempts to escape,” she sets off with a translator to follow in the missing couple’s footsteps. When they arrive at the village where the couple was last seen, they’re brought to “a hovel...a habitable structure made from wood, cardboard, and lots of dry branches.” Here, the boundaries between prose and poetry, reality and myth—both already tenuous—begin to blur even further. A wolf spied waiting outside the couple’s cabin door might have been a wild boy captured by passing lumberjacks. A miscarriage witnessed by a village child might be the origin story of “two miniature creatures” used in a bawdy bordello show. The miniature creatures might, after all, be real. If haunting is a kind of repetition, the narrator and her translator begin their own ghost story, following in the footsteps of the couple before them, falling in love—if only briefly. This novel, in a translation by Levine and Kana, is taught, lyrical, and strange, and it fits right in with Dorothy, A Publishing Project’s commitment to work that challenges what genres and forms can do. Like the best speculative fiction, it follows the sinuous paths of its own logic but gives the reader plenty of room to play. Fans of fairy tales and detective stories, Kathryn Davis and Idra Novey, will all find something to love.
An eerie, slippery gem of a book.