Still Life with Tornado - A.S. King

Sarah can't draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has "done the art." She thinks she's having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she explores the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she's finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can't quite recall. After decades of staying together "for the kids" and building a family on a foundation of lies and violence, Sarah's parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original —and yet it still hurts.

Fans of King will very likely find themselves drawn to the latest of her work. I love King for the most part. I had some issues with I Crawl Through It and We Are the Ants, but am otherwise a very big fan of King's oeuvre. Her work is always challenging, always thought-provoking, and always on point where gender and sexuality are concerned. This particular novel includes a lot of discussion about females, femininity, art, originality, and overall conforming to parental expectations.

The magically realistic worlds that King builds are always intriguing, whether you are fully immersed or not, and her narratives are never dull. I found much to enjoy in this book, even if some of the discussion of art and originality left me slightly confounded and unnecessarily frustrated. The magical realism as well, though intriguing and complementary to the plot in many respects, is underdeveloped in the end and makes the overall novel less than fully satisfying, in my opinion.

Recommended with Reservations

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out Oct. 2016)


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