A mental health drama set in the American 1970's, Unrequited also features elements of the Fantastic -- to wit, a magic chair, the Zimbalist Holistic Recliner(!). The back jacket describes the novel as "slip-stream" and, yeah, there's that, sure! Slipstream is, for me, a not-so-familiar term, one I first found applied to Anna Kavan's Ice. And there may be - who knows? - some overlap with what Victoria Nelson calls "the New Expressionism" in Secret Life of Puppets. These are, eh, slippery umbrella-words. More specifically i was reminded - in a limited *conceptual* sense - of Tim Earnshaw's Godbox, but rather than neo-Noir zingers firing over a sort of "heart" (the sort you might find inside th' sad drunk at the end of the bar), there are other things - differently heavy, differently sad - at work here. Reference points include a couple fine films that might resonate with those of you who grew up in the 70's. I mean The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. .. but that's not exactly "it" either: Unrequited is regularly punctuated with unexpected manifestations of hilarity (an obscure 19th c. author who imagines rural living .. IN SPACE), some of it mixed with Heavier Stuff:
"Well, I guess that's it then," she said, wiping her lipstick on a napkin. "I guess we're getting a divorce."
Ezekiel looked at her with excitement and anticipation.
"Really? Can I help you pick one out?"
It is "obvious," of course, that a novel runs on language, on characters. Some do it especially well (Stanley Elkins' The MacGuffin). Rest assured, Unrequited will not leave the Reader disappointed (after a couple days of milling around for what to read next, i read it Again, hey!). The brief "about the author" informs us of Jenny Drummey's background in poetry and technical writing. And, yeah, both come into play beautifully:
"Would you like the apricot elixer, the opium/water lily, or the sun-drenched peach? This is definitely the toner/cleanser all-in-one for you, and it's the most economical choice in the midmarket price range. have you read the reviews in Healthy Third Trimester Woman?" The manager pulled out a worn copy of the popular rag, with an utterly glamorous pregnant lady on the cover. One glance at her explosively healthy smile and Bebe was sold.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
.. but what's it about, you wonder? Unrequited is a song about DESIRE .. a deftly-paced, generally-realistic "fable that remembers" the wonder and less-than-wonder of Now and Before. What Drummey does remarkably well is present her main characters (i'm thinking there are five) in their particular worlds, driven by private obsessions, some more oblivious to the Great Exterior than others. In any case, a startlingly original take on the ETERNAL TRIANGLE of single mom, the kid & the shrink .. but wait, THERE'S MORE: dad and dad's new girlfriend/wife (think you've seen this all before? think again ..). And, naturally, everyone has the best intentions. But it's surprise that makes the subplots and themes of Identity and Acceptance work. Any feeling of "ah-hah!" in Unrequited is just the beginning: a level of mystery is resolved, but - through the door - Life.