Subdivision A novel

J. Robert Lennon, 1970-

Book - 2021

"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 da...rkly 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. 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."--Provided by publisher.

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FICTION/Lennon, J. Robert
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1st Floor FICTION/Lennon, J. Robert Checked In
Psychological fiction
Detective and mystery fiction
Thrillers (Fiction)
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press [2021]
Main Author
J. Robert Lennon, 1970- (author)
Physical Description
231 pages ; 21 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

In Lennon's new novel, following the thriller, Broken River (2017), an unnamed woman arrives at The Guesthouse, a bed-and-breakfast run by Clara and the Judge, two retired judges both named Clara. In the hall is an elaborate jigsaw puzzle that guests are expected to complete and which may reveal images from the guest's real life, past or future. Such is the setup for this deeply philosophical and surreal puzzle-like tale. The Guesthouse is located in the Subdivision, a mysterious and ominous locale replete with fantastical objects and characters such as the clairvoyant Alexa-like personal assistant that repeatedly warns of impending danger and the Bakemono, a shape-shifting demon determined to copulate with our protagonist. As our narrator seems to retrieve memories that hint at past personal trauma, the dreamlike structure seems to suggest that she is traversing her own subconscious. Lennon cleverly employs symbolism and literary echoes to create a dark fairy tale rich in imagination and sly intelligence that will appeal to the intellectually curious reader. A thought-provoking work that somehow successfully brings to mind Alice in Wonderland and Kafka as reimagined by manga animator Hayao Miyazaki.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In Lennon's deliriously inventive novel (published simultaneously with the collection Let Me Think), a woman suffers from a bout of amnesia while staying in a strange town known only as the Subdivision. The unnamed narrator doesn't know how she came to be the houseguest of kind if eccentric retirees Clara and the Judge, and, unable to remember her name or why she is here, she sets out to create a new life, accompanied by her digital assistant, Cylvia. But things in the Subdivision aren't as they appear. Strangers are alternatively too familiar or too hostile; the ruins of a church feature scenes of biblical pageantry acted out behind stained glass; empty properties host "probability wells" that warp time; and perhaps most distressingly, her steps are haunted by the "bakemono," a shape-shifting, malevolent spirit intent on seducing her. Lennon strikes a delicate balance, and the surreal story is only occasionally weighed down with overwriting. As the narrator dives deeper into the Subdivision, its true nature comes into focus, but with an apocalyptic storm on the horizon, can she complete her journey of self-discovery in time? This is an impressive marriage of a vibrant, tortuous fever dream and an unsentimental meditation on life and death. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An askew, uncanny--and consistently compelling--novel about memory, dislocation, and trauma. A nameless woman--one without any past she seems able or inclined to access--checks into a guesthouse owned by two women, both ex-judges named Clara, and is assigned both a room named Mercy and, it seems, the task of completing an extremely challenging (and possibly shape-shifting) jigsaw puzzle in the common room. In the morning her hosts send her out, armed with a map and vague instructions, to look for a job and a place to live in their small, bewildering Subdivision, which is for now cut off from the nearby city. Our baffled but cheerful heroine takes all this in stride, mostly. She meets the (very few, frequently reappearing) denizens of this place. She makes an ally and protector in Cylvia, a hand-held digital assistant who requires light to stay charged; is threatened by the bakemono, a spirit who, in protean male guises, keeps trying to seduce or mislead her; keeps encountering and reencountering a small boy (who others seem to think accompanied her here) and a troubled delivery-truck driver who's also staying at the guesthouse. Eventually she secures work in an office tower abandoned after a wind-borne calamity in the vague but recent past, and there she gets sucked into a quantum-physics experiment involving tennis balls and a wall--an experiment being conducted by the tower's only other occupant. The tone is surreal and the result sometimes, à la Kafka, darkly funny. The novel features elements of the picaresque (she is Alice, or perhaps Gulliver), but it also has the everyday-suburban-made-strange-and-luminous quality of Steven Millhauser and the gleefully absurd, improvised feel of César Aira. Eventually the narrator's other, prior world starts to bleed through, and the reader gains tools that help to illuminate the mystery, if not quite (and bless Lennon for this) solve it. Sharp, inventive--and disorienting in all the good ways. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.