Ecco: HarperCollins. Nov. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9780063066670. $24. F
DEBUT Early in Oshetsky’s debut, narrator Tiny intones, “I prefer to speak in metaphor: That way no logic can trap me”—a sentiment that seems to apply to the author herself. The story of a mother who gives birth to an owl-baby and proceeds to ferociously fight for her child’s individuality and happiness, this novel is rife with metaphorical suggestion but thankfully resists burying any kind of explicit thesis within its surreal narrative. Instead, Oshetsky lets the story take a freer, distinctly fabulist shape, using the language and imagery of a dark fairy tale but refusing easy analogy; think a minimalist riff on Helen Oyeyemi, married to the disquieting phantasmagoria of Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream. Yes, it’s a novel primarily about motherhood—the dizzying tedium, the terror and paranoia, the helplessness, the tension between retaining a tether to the wider world and committing oneself to another person—but Oshetsky is careful to take her story to surprising places, frequently brutal if strikingly beautiful. What really sings here, however, is Oshetsky’s spare but elegant language, a linguistic nocturne for readers that gracefully matches the classical music always humming in Tiny’s head, an articulation of ecstasy and pain, fear and hope.
VERDICT Balancing parabolic storytelling with eloquent humanism isn’t an easy undertaking, but Oshetsky’s concise debut understood the task, and it soars.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing