Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Alison McGhee's "Falling Boy"

Alison McGhee's latest book is Falling Boy.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to the new novel and reported the following:
A reader opening Falling Boy to page 99 would first read the following, spoken by a nine-year-old girl, Enzo, to a seventeen-year-old boy, Zap:

"My watch," she said. "Do you need to know the time? Because it's 11:03."

Dropping down into page 99, the reader would find herself in a bakery, in south Minneapolis, on a summer day. The girl Enzo stares down Zap, who remains silent, but whose fingers clench the tray he's holding. Zap disappears into the darkness of the backroom. Who is this child, who bears such enmity toward Zap, whom everyone else loves?

The reader would then observe a teenage boy in a wheelchair, Joseph, who rolls behind the bakery counter to take Zap's place. Enzo clicks her mechanical pencil out of nervous and angry habit while the adult customers look upon the scene in bland disdain. These teenagers. That annoying child. I'd like my cookie please, and I'd like it now.

Zap remains in the back room, and across the bakery itself, the child Enzo retreats into the brown velvet chair in the corner that she considers her own. Here she is:

". . . Enzo clutched her clickster. Her head was bent, so that the mess of tangled ribbon was visible across the bakery. She wrapped her arms around her knees. Now she was a ball of child, curved into a corner of her brown velvet chair."

What do these children, the child Enzo and the teenagers Zap and Joseph, hold within their hearts? What is breaking them, may already have broken them, and what do they long for? They are old souls, all three of them, and all three of them seek, in an instinctive and essential way, to heal each other and themselves.
Visit Alison McGhee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue