This is one of those otherworldly sort of books that constantly slips through your fingers as you read it. But keep grabbing at it because what a remarkable book.
Separated into three parts, each narrated by a different character, the story revolves around a small, remote place called the territory. It's one of those towns where everyone knows everyone else's business, but things are a bit weirder here, as is slowly revealed throughout the first part.
The central figure is one Billie Jean Fontaine, but she's gone missing. The first part is narrated by her daughter, Pony, the second by her loyal dog, and the third by a boy nicknamed Supernatural, a boy all the girls in the territory have their sights set on.
The book is a tangle of the past and present, everyone's memories colliding with what is currently happening to bring about a picture of Billie Jean that's fuzzy around the edges—the only person we don't hear from is her. From her mythic entrance to the territory, to how she never fully fit in, to the secrets of her long past and not so long past, the blank edges of a woman are filled in through the thoughts, memories, and opinions of those who were close to her.
It goes back to what I said about the book slipping through your fingers. Billie Jean's ephemerality makes her difficult to grab hold of, but that's the point. And underlying all the character-driven narration, there is the place, the territory. Where is it? How did it come to be and why do they all seem to take it for granted that the way they are living is life as it should be?
It is definitely worth mentioning that the narration by the dog is some beautiful, weird, and deeply original writing. Dogs know our deepest secrets, see everything inside us and yet are silent. What if they could speak, eloquently, release their thoughts, their deep observations about us, the world, the history and the connections of how things came to be? What a brilliant concept and so wonderfully executed in this book.
The writing style reminded me a lot of Stephen Graham Jones, a literary horror author I adore, so if you enjoyed this, I recommend checking out some of his work, like Mongrels or the novella Mapping the Interior.
My thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.