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A heady, inventive, fantastical novel about the nature of memory and the difficulty of confronting trauma
An unnamed woman checks into a guesthouse in a mysterious district known only as the Subdivision. The guesthouse’s owners, Clara and the Judge, are welcoming and helpful, if oddly preoccupied by the perpetually baffling jigsaw puzzle in the living room. With little more than a hand-drawn map and vague memories of her troubled past, the narrator ventures out in search of a job, an apartment, and a fresh start in life.
Accompanied by an unusually assertive digital assistant named Cylvia, the narrator is drawn deeper into an increasingly strange, surreal, and threatening world, which reveals itself to her through a series of darkly comic encounters reminiscent of Gulliver’s Travels. A lovelorn truck driver . . . a mysterious child . . . a watchful crow. A cryptic birthday party. A baffling physics experiment in a defunct office tower where some calamity once happened. Through it all, the narrator is tempted and manipulated by the bakemono, a shape-shifting demon who poses a distinctly terrifying danger.
Harrowing, meticulous, and deranged, Subdivision is a brilliant maze of a novel from the writer Kelly Link has called “a master of the dark arts.” With the narrative intensity and mordant humor familiar to readers of Broken River, J. Robert Lennon continues his exploration of the mysteries of perception and memory.
“A dazzling enigma packed with mysteries in miniature. . . . Is the Subdivision a place, an emotion or an event lodged in the back of the mind? Is it limbo, or a wall persuaded to shield us from the truth? Lennon is a masterly aggregator of dread. His refusal to neatly answer these questions allows for a bold, unsettling narrative to take shape.”—The New York Times Book Review
“An askew, uncanny—and consistently compelling—novel about memory, dislocation, and trauma. . . . [Lennon’s] tone is surreal and the result sometimes, à la Kafka, darkly funny. The novel features elements of the picaresque . . . , but it also has the everyday-suburban-made-strange-and-luminous quality of Steven Millhauser and the gleefully absurd, improvised feel of César Aira. . . . Sharp, inventive—and disorienting in all the good ways.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Deliriously inventive. . . . This is an impressive marriage of a vibrant, tortuous fever dream and an unsentimental meditation on life and death.”—Publishers Weekly
“J Robert Lennon [is] one of our most reliably interesting and adventurous novelists.”—The Millions