The Third Per­son

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

We’ve all dealt with rou­tine mo­ments of uncer­tainty. A new job or res­i­dence, or nav­i­gat­ing new en­coun­ters, both pro­fes­sional and per­sonal. Emily Anglin’s pro­tag­o­nists come into these sit­u­a­tions with re­served skep­ti­cism; they are care­ful not to over­step bound­aries, but catch glim­mers of mo­tives be­ing with­held. Her de­but col­lec­tion of short sto­ries ex­plores this dy­namic of the wary choices we make when un­veil­ing our­selves and the search for truth in others.

These reser­va­tions are mir­rored by the ec­cen­tric cast Anglin in­tro­duces, who are of­ten cryptic, but ex­pres­sive, and don’t nec­es­sar­ily lead ex­changes to re­solve. “I’m afraid if I tell you too lit­er­ally what’s hap­pen­ing, it will shape how you see me,” says the re­cur­ring char­ac­ter of Eilidh. But as sus­pi­cion is met, it’s found that the act of hid­ing is of­ten out of self-preser­va­tion, rather than de­cep­tion — it’s an at­tempt to build an un­der­stand­ing safely.

Anglin cap­tures the tran­sience of these sit­u­a­tions, but also shows the char­ac­ters un­in­hib­ited by their vul­ner­a­bil­ity. In “Alden,” the de­sire to live in a smaller town over­rides the risk of a ques­tion­able job of­fer. Vera, in “For­ti­fied Wine,” lets an evan­ge­list into a loaned apart­ment. Their un­easi­ness isn’t overpowering, in­stead, it guides them for­ward.

For the large part, the pro­tag­o­nists hover into an am­bigu­ous adult­hood, search­ing for a bet­ter foot­ing. As the nar­ra­tor of “Ei­dolon” con­cludes, “But none of that life had been fake; it had just ended. I was still look­ing for some­thing to re­place it.” And yet, the traces from be­fore never fully go away. (Ar­win Chan)

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