In Todd Shimoda’s most recent novel, Subduction (Chin Music Press; 304 pages), the book’s visual design is as crucial to the narrative’s enjoyment as is the prose
Endo, a doctor exiled to the island of Marui-jima for committing a fatal mistake, occupies himself by becoming concerned with the island’s elderly residents. Curious about the years before his arrival, and the choices the islanders have often come to regret, he befriends Mari, the island’s documentary filmmaker, and grills her about the islanders’ stories, as well as her own. But when she presses Endo to share personal details of his own life, he only stresses his utter dullness and deflects the question back to her. For a man so obsessed with the past, it is clear Endo is a man unwilling to reciprocate.
The first thing to be understood about Tupelo Hassman’s debut novel, Girlchild, is that the young protagonist, Rory Dawn Hendrix, is alone. This is not only evidenced in her isolation: living in Reno’s Calle de las Flores trailer park, her general lack of school friends, or the way her poverty is treated coolly by government officials. Rory Dawn’s aloneness comes off in her fearless narration, the way she wanders off unaided into unknown places, to be followed by the adventurous reader.
Rory approaches everything familiar with caution. The Calle is her home, but it doesn’t offer the comfort or the safety of one. She is fearful of knocks at the door. She loves her mother, but can’t stand the way she points to the meager artifacts of their home and tells her these are the things to be given to her upon her death. She listens to conversations between her mother and grandmother, detached and wary. In the dark of their trailer, she watches Family Ties and M*A*S*H.