Her Here

Bellevue Literary Press. Mar. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781942658764. pap. $16.95. F
DEBUT Meeting in Paris with sculptor Siobhán, an old friend of her mother, late-twenties Elena is offered a startling proposition: Siobhán wants her to craft a narrative from the journals left behind by Siobhán’s daughter, Ella, who vanished in Thailand six years previously. This act, Siobhán believes, will clarify what really happened to Ella, who learned only as an adult that Siobhán had birthed her and given her away. Even as Elena abandons her dissertation and boyfriend in America, moving to a Montmartre studio Siobhán makes available, Dennis’s elegant yet propulsive debut becomes much more than a missing-persons search. Elena is also trying to learn more about her own artist mother, gifted yet twice institutionalized, whose shocking death left Elena with a six-month memory gap. Adding further tension, Ella’s troubled state of mind worryingly mirrors—and might amplify—Elena’s. The narrative shifts gracefully among Elena’s story, the elliptical journal entries, and the increasingly interesting reconstruction of a life for Ella, who’s found in Elena’s pages if not in reality.
VERDICT Elena’s narrative-within-a-narrative nicely reveals the creative process, while Dennis’s larger story confirms the value of living boldly even as we step back to frame our experiences. Highly recommended.
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