This month’s Across the Page features books by noteworthy
independent presses: Red Audrey and the
Roping, by Jill Malone (Bywater Books); Family
Outing, by Troy Johnson (Arcade); and Another Love, by Erzsébet Galgóczi (Midnight Editions).
Red Audrey and the Roping by Jill Malone (Bywater Books)
Jill Malone’s debut novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, is an absolutely gripping and beautifully
written story about a woman struggling to figure out how her past reflects her
present life and future.
Jane Elliot is in the hospital recovering from a serious
head injury. Though she has been there for several weeks, no family or friends
have come to claim or visit her and the circumstances of the accident that
landing her there are vague at best.
The novel opens with a meeting between Jane and her
psychologist, Dr. Mya, and then journeys back to the events that led up to the
accident. For unknown reasons, Jane resists the team of doctors working on her
case and trying to learn more about her life.
As the story unfolds, Jane is forced to come to terms with
her haunting past — both distant and immediate. She has recently returned to Hawaii after abandoning a stable and loving relationship
with a woman in Ireland
by leaving a “Dear Jane” letter. She is still grieving the childhood loss of
her mother, a gifted storyteller who suffered from mental illness and
eventually took her own life.
“If my mind would sort properly, I could explain,” Jane
thinks at one point, and indeed she has plenty to figure out. In her recovery,
Malone carefully weaves together several narrative strands, each of which are
intriguing enough to fill an entire novel.
Nearly every aspect of Jane’s life is binary. She teaches
Latin at the University
of Hawaii and surfs. She
is bisexual. She seeks people to take care of her, including best friends Grey
and Emily, but is also a masochist who allows her new sadist boyfriend, Nick,
to leave welts so deep she can barely sit back in a chair.
Audrey is the one character who is finally able to break
through to Jane — primarily because she is unwilling to accept Jane’s
disengagement and unrest. Though Jane’s recovery in the hospital is centered on
her physical injuries, the process of memory and the literal act of telling her
story forces her to confront her past and to see exactly how it has shaped her
Malone is an extremely talented storyteller and Red Audrey and the Roping is a
magnificent debut. The novel is accomplished on nearly every level — engaging
characters, lyrical prose, and a mystery that is certain to keep you turning
the pages. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to read more — or at all — this
is the perfect book to pick up and devour.
Another Love by Erzsébet Galgóczi (Midnight Editions)
When Eva Szalánczky
is shot and killed while trying to cross the border from Soviet controlled Hungary to Yugoslavia, Lieutenant
Marosi recognizes her immediately.
Though they essentially work on opposite sides of the
communist regime — he as a border patrol and she as a dissident journalist — he
was in love with her back when they were classmates in school.
Eva is a lesbian and Marosi’s love for her was torturous and
unrequited. Nonetheless, he is compelled to unravel the mystery of her death
and to find out whether it was suicide or murder. Why did she not ask for his
help to cross the border? And, if she was murdered, was it connected to her
political activities or her reckless behavior surrounding the love of a
straight woman named Livia whose husband was unpredictable and violent?