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The Dangers of Proximal Alphabetsby Kathleen Alcott
Synopses & Reviews
An extraordinary debut novel that challenges the definition of family and explores the intricate ties that bind us together
Ida grew up with Jackson and James—where there was “I” there was a “J.” She can’t recall a time when she didn’t have them around, whether in their early days camping out in the boys’ room decorated with circus scenes or later drinking on rooftops as teenagers. While the world outside saw them as neighbors and friends, to each other the three formed a family unit—two brothers and a sister—not drawn from blood, but drawn from a deep need to fill a void in their single parent households. Theirs was a relationship of communication without speaking, of understanding without judgment, of intimacy without rules and limits.
But as the three of them mature and emotions become more complex, Ida and Jackson find themselves more than just siblings. When Jackson’s somnambulism produces violent outbursts and James is hospitalized, Ida is paralyzed by the events that threaten to shatter her family and put it beyond her reach. Kathleen Alcott’s striking debut, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, is an emotional, deeply layered love story that explores the dynamics of family when it defies bloodlines and societal conventions.
"Jackson calls Ida 'I'; she is himself, and he her. Their bond is more than love, more than friendship even; it is very nearly a blood link, and the intensity of it seems incestuous at times. In this dreamy, barbed novel, Ida tells the story of this relationship after it has ended. It begins when Jackson and Ida are infants and continues through their mildly rebellious Northern California adolescences and on into young adulthood. Neighbors first, they become lovers as teenagers but their relationship is off-balance in an important way. As a child, Jackson sleep-talks with his brother, and Ida listens and mines the conversations for prophetic information. As an adult, he thrashes with night terrors and, at Ida's prompting, creates beautiful art while sleeping. Ida's role as an observer and manipulator to his helpless actor tilts their connection unevenly, and eventually topples it. The initial sense of beauty and sweetness between the two is tempered by uncomfortable intensity and claustrophobia. Ida's narrative is peppered with horrors as well — Ida's mother's death by fire, a classmate's kidnapping, Jackson's brother's growing insanity — and what emerges as a whole is an emotional narrative that is not easy or relatable but that sparks with convincing pain and nostalgia. Agent: Victoria Marini, Gelfman Schneider. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Kathleen Alcott’s first words were “Ooh, the lights,” and they will probably be her last. She was born and raised in northern California and now resides in Brooklyn. She is currently at work on her second novel. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus; The Bold Italic; Rumpus Women, Volume 1, an anthology of personal essays by women, and will appear in forthcoming issues of American Short Fiction and Slice Magazine.
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