FICTION

Subduction

Red Hen. Apr. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781597098922. pap. $16.95. F
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DEBUT Single-minded, ambitious, and somewhat abrasive, Latinx anthropologist Claudia Ranks leaves Seattle when she learns of her husband’s involvement with her sister and heads for a Native American whaling village on the Pacific Coast where she once worked. There she reacquaints herself with spirited but fading Maggie, who lives in a trash-to-the-ceiling house and has been diagnosed with dementia. Claudia feels that her research on the Makah is worthy but fragmented and wishes to create a more complete story. But Maggie—and the Makah generally—are evasive, unwilling to share their culture. Meanwhile, Maggie’s son, Peter, a loner like Claudia, has returned to care for his mother after years way. Even as Claudia tries to persuade Maggie to open up, he and Claudia enter into a seesawing relationship that gives them both a sense of belonging while failing to resolve the issue of what comes next in their respective lives.
VERDICT Gorgeously, toughly written, this book dares to be open-ended yet leaves readers with a satisfying sense of how life really unfolds. Cultural clash matters here, but personal differences and desires even more. For any fiction reader looking beyond the obvious. [See “Winter/Spring Bests,” LJ 4/20.]

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