Author: Caitriona Lally
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 276
Sheesh. I had high hopes for this one. I normally love stories with main characters that are mentally ill and/or outsiders, but this story dragged big-time. According to the internet Vivian (the main character) has OCD, but I think that’s a real stretch. Sure, she has a lot of weird rituals and rules for herself but none of it seems particularly intrusive. I thought she gave out big-time personality disorder vibes. Maybe schizotypal?
She’s friendless, jobless, and has seemingly no understanding of how other people operate. Her sister, also named Vivian (!) treats her like a nuisance and I couldn’t help feeling bad for her about how bad her sister’s family treated her, even though she was pretty unlikable herself. When Vivian-the-black-sheep-sister (and our incredibly unstable protagonist) decides she wants a friend, she simultaneously decides that that friend needs to be named Penelope.
She puts out a request for a friend named Penelope and unbelievably, someone responds- and this someone (an eccentric cat-loving artist) wants to hang out with Vivian. Vivian has zero consideration for Penelope’s feelings and doesn’t listen to anything she says, which ironically makes Penelope think she’s attentively listening to every word.
I thought most of this book would be about the friendship between Vivian and Penelope, but that was promptly pushed aside in favor of lllloooonnnggg descriptions Vivian wandering around Dublin. After a while it feels like the same scene is occurring over and over again. She goes to kiosks. She goes to public bathrooms. She alienates people. Who the hell cares?
Vivian believes she’s a changeling (even her parents thought so- apparently they even tried to kill her several times to bring back their ‘real’ daughter.) Even though the author is willing to fill long scenes with Vivian walking around in public looking for portals to her native realm (and pissing off various people put off by her strange behavior) we get very little backstory on either of the main protagonists and Vivian has no character development.
She feels like a one-note character and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why Penelope spent time with her. I got that Penelope was lonely too but one time Vivian seriously invites her over just so they can dig a hole and she can lie in it. Her disturbed whims didn’t seem compatible with friendships and I never really bought the dynamic between the two of them. This book’s concept had promise and wasted it with very little substance and a frustrating lead.