No Exit £7.99

Book Review: Others of my Kind, by James Sallis

 

James Sallis is a crime writer’s crime writer, admired for the economy of language with which he conjures up fictional worlds. His most famous novel, Drive, was the basis for the Ryan Gosling film, a movie that shared the book’s existential minimalism, a style typical of Sallis’s terrific back catalogue.

Others of My Kind is similarly pared back but also possesses an emotional depth that Sallis, or any other crime writer, has rarely reached before. In just 157 pages he creates a story full of heart, imbued with a warmth of human spirit that most longer books could only dream of.

The story is told by Jenny, now a grown woman who as a child was abducted and kept for two years in a box under the bed of her kidnapper. After escaping, she lived in a shopping mall as a feral creature for 18 months, her discovery an infamous episode.

With a new identity, Jenny now works as a video editor for a local Washington news channel, a metaphor for the shaping of her own personal narrative that Sallis plays with a very deft hand. Jenny has created her new life out of the ashes of her terrible childhood, but all that is threatened when a detective comes to her door asking for help with a teenage girl called Cheryl who has just escaped from a similar kidnapping.

Others of My Kind is far from a conventional crime novel. There’s no dead body, no crime to solve, and the detective is peripheral to the main story, which is Jenny’s ongoing attempt to keep living in the wake of the atrocities committed to her and others.

Structurally, much of this novel shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Most of the first third of Others of My Kind is Jenny’s backstory, but Sallis hooks the reader with his innate ability to cut straight to the heart of the matter. Jenny is an amazing character right from the off, incredibly damaged on the one hand but full of hope for humanity on the other. As well as taking in the traumatised Cheryl, she shows forgiveness for her own kidnapper as well as feeding the local stray cat and helping out the down-at-heel squatters who have moved in next door.

With the concept of a conventional childhood stolen from her, Jenny has become adept at creating her own unconventional family unit as best she can, but it’s a constant battle. As she tells Cheryl towards the end of this exquisitely crafted book: “We work at making a self for most of a lifetime only to find that the self we’ve created is inseparable from the struggle.” In Sallis’s sublime hands, the struggle is worth it.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits