SUM­MER CANNIBALS

Me­lanie Hob­son, Grove Press (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $16 (288pp), 978-0-8021-2852-2

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight | Debut Fiction - MERED­ITH GRAHL COUNTS

Me­lanie Hob­son’s Sum­mer Cannibals is a vi­brant, vi­cious fam­ily por­trait in which three adult daugh­ters come home.

The fam­ily ma­tri­arch, Mar­garet, has sum­moned ev­ery­one to rally around her very preg­nant daugh­ter, Pippa. The girls’ fa­ther is en­raged that Pippa’s de­bil­i­tat­ing de­pres­sion re­quired her re­turn, in­ter­rupt­ing his prepa­ra­tion for a gar­den tour. As they ar­rive at the house, which sits on a cliff over­look­ing Hamil­ton, On­tario, the girls find that it is burst­ing at the seams—with re­sent­ments and gro­ceries, price­less heir­looms and hurt­ful se­crets.

From the first page, in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter dis­sat­is­fac­tions set the plot boil­ing. The daugh­ters, all moth­ers them­selves, are each oth­er­wise very dif­fer­ent, all with in­de­pen­dent streaks. Some sort of doom is grotesquely pal­pa­ble. Things seem bound to go awry at this re­u­nion, and pity the stranger who’d in­ter­rupt it.

As each fam­ily mem­ber is de­vel­oped, their dif­fer­ing at­ti­tudes about the oth­ers be­come clear; the ef­fect is stun­ning. Ro­tat­ing points of view are used to piece to­gether the present story. It is one of well-trod griev­ances, youth­ful ad­ven­tures, and se­cret past hor­rors.

The fam­ily fas­ci­nates. Their story is com­pelling, and each mem­ber woos their lis­ten­ers to re­gard the oth­ers as they do—ef­fec­tively enough, un­til the van­tage switches again. The au­di­ence is forced to shift al­liances re­peat­edly as the girls’ first day home shifts into the sec­ond, with more back­story re­vealed, and as the story hur­tles to­ward the fa­ther’s gar­den tour and its af­ter­math.

Dis­con­tent rum­bles and then crashes down, thanks to the air­ing of decades of fam­ily of­fenses—re­sent­ments that have been care­fully tended with the same at­ten­tion that is given to the rose gar­den that wraps around the fam­ily’s funky man­sion. By turns darkly com­i­cal and hor­ri­fy­ing, Sum­mer Cannibals holds at­ten­tion.

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