Salvage, By Jane F Kotapish

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The Independent Culture

It seems ungenerous to put down a debut novel, but I found the reliance on kooky, pithy observation after kooky, pithy observation extremely unengaging in this one. Jane F Kotapish is trying too hard from the first line, and it takes her focus away from what matters.

Her unnamed narrator has a tricky relationship with her mother, who suffered a miscarriage while with a man called Charles when the narrator was very young.

The mother seems never to have got over it; the daughter, possibly to escape it all, leaves for New York as soon as she can. While there, she witnesses a death on the subway – at least, I think she does.

The moment is recalled in poetic terms, the assault on the narrator and then on another bystander rendered a "dance", which makes it difficult to tell what actually happens.

As a result of romanticising this event, Kotapish has a problem making us understand and empathise with her protagonist's subsequent breakdown.

This feels dishonest, and while that might be because Kotapish wanted to show her character's inability to face what has happened, it's a misjudgement that seriously affects her story.