Woman, Eating

Harper. Apr. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780063140882. $26.99. F
DEBUT Presenting a genuinely fresh take on the vampire mythos is an exceedingly difficult task in a post-Twilight world of bloodsucker rehash, not to mention enduring classic representation, but that’s precisely what Kohda manages in her debut novel. An artist born to a vampire mother and a human father, recently transplanted to the city where she begins an internship at a gallery and feels haunted by a predatory male superior, Lydia lives at the nexus of several different worlds. But while such a synopsis might suggest a work primed for melodrama, Kohda instead executes her narrative with practiced restraint reflective of her protagonist’s own reticence in navigating a new existence. Indeed, Lydia’s circumstance is never handled sensationally but rather mined for its mundanity: how best to avoid eating at a dinner party with peers, for instance, or where to discreetly obtain pig’s blood in her new neighborhood. Kohda likewise smartly resists pat analogy, allowing vampirism to become more a texture to Lydia’s growing pains than a guiding metaphor, and the only real consideration of lore is a brilliant subversion: for Lydia, the very act of “feeding” becomes an act of pure empathy. This loose, even defiant approach to narrative expectations can leave the novel feeling a bit slight, but that’s a minor quibble. More books, vampire-themed or otherwise, could stand to feel this intimate.
VERDICT A delicate, consistently surprising riff on the vampire narrative, and a stealthy, subversive story of one young woman’s declaration of self.
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