Avid Reader. Aug. 2022. 208p. ISBN 9781982197896. $26. F
DEBUT Written at a feverish pace once her own children returned to school, London poet/playwright Pollard’s exquisitely painful debut recaps the hellish first year of the COVID pandemic. COVID hits England just as the unnamed 45-year-old narrator, a British academic and translator, begins a novel about prophecies and Greek myths. As the lockdown drags on, she, her husband, and their 10-year-old son grow short-tempered and emotionally distant from one another. The narrator recounts the details of their yearlong suffering in short journal entries labeled with specific prophecies: Ovomancy covers the dilemma of safe travel (the family scraps their plan to go to Delphi for Easter), while in Cybermancy she’s aghast at the fallout for students learning online. With the help of online psychics, Tarot apps, and the I Ching, she desperately searches for signs pointing to the end of the COVID nightmare, blinding her to a looming family disaster playing out before her.
VERDICT Pollard’s deft inclusion of all the pandemic’s practical and political challenges--masks, vaccines, social distancing, the strain on shared home WiFi networks, long separations from aging parents, the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and January 6--is wrapped in the inventive framework of prophecies. Irresistible and also oddly reassuring for all who have come through (so far) to the other side of COVID’s miseries.
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