The Seventh Mansion

Farrar. Sept. 2020. 192p. ISBN 9780374298463. pap. $16. F
DEBUT NOVEL Suspended from school after participating in an animal rights protest gone wrong, Xie expends most of his energy tending his garden and pursuing additional environmental causes. Painfully lonely and lacking in social skills, Xie develops a fascination with Christian martyrs and mystical theology, an obsession that manifests itself sexually and leads him to commit a highly unusual crime. Despite attempts to connect with him by his well-meaning father and his tutor Karen (who has personal struggles of her own), Xie cannot steer himself away from his monomaniacal pursuits, which ultimately leads to tragedy. Although it comes early, it would be unfair to reveal the novel’s most surprising plot twist, which may cause some readers to recoil in revulsion. The book combines stream of consciousness with intermittent third- and second-person narration, indicating Xie’s volatile state of mind.
VERDICT Meijer (Rag) does a creditable job of connecting the troubled psychology of a contemporary teen with the sometimes lurid accounts of the lives of saints, suggesting that the extremities of their respective devotions are similar. Not for everyone, but refreshingly bold and original.

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