Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

Treacle Walker, by Alan Garner (Scribner). The protagonist of this spare novel, drawn from British folklore and Northern English vernacular, is a boy who lives alone in an old house, reading comic books and collecting birds’ eggs, and whose life is disrupted by the arrival of a rag-and-bone man. The boy forges a friendship with the man, Treacle Walker, who speaks in rhymes and riddles and travels with a magic chest. When the boy visits a doctor for his lazy eye, he discovers that his other eye sees things that don’t exist in the ordinary realm, and he begins to navigate an increasingly blurry boundary between reality and a dreamlike parallel world. The book examines knowledge and blindness, but its central concern is time, and what it means to step beyond its constraints.

The Berry Pickers, by Amanda Peters (Catapult). The ghosts of lost children haunt generations in this lucid and assured début. The novel begins at the deathbed of a man from the Mi’kmaq Nation, who recalls a life transformed by the abduction of his younger sister, from a berry field in Maine, when he was six. His narration twines with that of a woman who grew up in a stable middle-class home but remembers understanding as a child that “my house was not my house.” The story has an inevitability to it, but Peters’s writing can surprise. At one point, the woman thinks of her elders, “We just start to separate from them, like oil from water, a line separating the living and the dying, the living carelessly gathering at the top.”

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