9.08.2013

Others of My Kind, by James Sallis

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be published 10 September 2013.

Others of My Kind
Even though the cover of James Sallis' Others of My Kind says that it's a novel, it's not. I have to agree with the other reviewers I read on Goodreads who called it a novella or character sketch. The book is a mere 128 pages long. There's very little plot. Most of the book is a narrative of the day to day activities of Jenny Rowan, who was kidnapped at age eight, escaped, emancipated herself at age 16, and found work as an editor at a TV station. That might sound boring, but this is not a boring book. It's just a book without a recognizable direction.

The novella opens with a local police officer asking Jenny to speak with a victim of a recent kidnapping, who was held by her captor for an extended period of time and abused--almost like Jenny was twenty some odd years before. Jenny is reluctant at first. After all, what does one say? But she eventually makes the trip to the hospital to give it her best shot. Later, after Cheryl is attacked again in the mental ward where the state put her while they try to find a permanent place, Jenny takes Cheryl home. There's also a news story that Jenny follows at work, in which the vice president's (later president) son is abducted. But that's about all there is for plot. Jenny goes to work. Jenny has a date with the police officer. Jenny tries to comfort Cheryl. In her spare time, Jenny takes food to the squatters next door and tries to find her parents.

As I read Others of My Kind, I had to wonder whether Jenny was such an exceedingly good character because her author is male or if it was because of my own assumptions about what a kidnapping and rape victim should be like (or because the author didn't sketch her portrait with enough depth). Where was her anger? Where was her blame? How could she accept that her parents had moved on with their lives with such equanimity? Then I realized that there is no should about what Jenny was feeling or had become. Any psychologist would argue that there's no such thing as normal; there's functioning and then there's not functioning. Jenny is functioning, but she's hard to understand. She's nearly affectless, to be honest.

Because Jenny is such a cipher, and because there's so little plot to this book, I suspect that a lot of people are not going to like it. I think I understand it, but I kept waiting for more depth, more reflection, more discovery--just more. The premise is just crying out for it. 

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