Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott

Ooh, y'all! The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott is a winner! I snatched this one up last year after I watched a review of it on one of my fave BookTube channels, MercysBookishMusings. I picked it up and put it down over the summer, because it required a bit too much brain power at the time, but this time it stuck!

Jackson, James, and Ida grow up like siblings. The boys have no father in the picture, and Ida's lost her mom. Jackson's and James's mom, and Ida's dad, lean on each other and help each other out with the children until it's hard to tell where friends end and family begins. 

Later in life, Ida and Jackson start a physical/romantic relationship, and James has to deal with the impact as well as his burgeoning drug addiction. The book opens with Ida reminiscing over her relationship with Jackson, which has ended badly, though we don't find out the details until near the end of the book. 

Kathleen Alcott has crafted a unique story that really tests its readers' boundaries and ideas on relationships. It's kind of gross when Ida and Jackson start sleeping together. They grow up as family, but they are not related. What do we do with that? In some respects it seems wrong on a social norms level, even though there's "technically" no reason they can't be together. 

It becomes very clear throughout this book that boundaries are constantly in question. Just as I and J are situated together in the alphabet, Ida and Jackson are so close in life as to be inseparable.  Jackson even refers to Ida, from childhood, simply as "I." They are so connected, they almost can't exist on their own. 

The plot of this book is not terribly complicated, but it unfolds slowly. Alcott's writing is atmospheric and reminded me of the sticky summer afternoons of my childhood and the torrid emotions that went along with that time in life. 

On a very technical level Alcott's sentences are strung together in a way that forces the reader to slowwww dowwwwwn--with odd clause arrangement and quirky phrasing--and take in the characterization and the nuances of the plot. It highlights the emotional intertwining of the characters as well as their triumphs, mistakes, and idiosyncrasies. 

It's a little book at only 200ish pages, but Alcott manages to cram in a whole lotta great writing and big questions. Just my kind of thing. 

Pub. Date: September 2012
Publisher: Other Press
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781590515297
Source: Bought it!

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