Touch by Alexi Zentner
The men floated the logs early, in September, a chain of headless trees jamming the river as far as I and the other children could see.
–Alexi Zentner - Touch - c. 2011 - pg.1
Stephen has returned home to take up from his stepfather as pastor. He has also returned in time to sit at his dying mother’s bed side. He knows she is dying and is writing her eulogy, but at the same time remembering his past, as well as the stories and legends that grew up surrounding his grandfather Jeannot.
Zentner’s debut novel is a slow, atmospheric retelling of those childhood memories interspresed with Stephen’s musings on his current situation and relationships with his family members.
I’m almost at a loss to describe this novel, although plenty happens in it, because there is little by way of a plot or storyline that moves people and characters forward. Instead it is more a collection of tales and stories, linked by the fact that they happened to people Stephen knew growing up, or heard the stories told.
It is a beautifully written book. You really feel the bitter cold that is at the heart of this book’s atmosphere. The winter in Sawgamet can kill, and worse. And the woods around the town are full of more than trees, there are witch. es and spectres out there. Supernatural elements that began with the founding of the town, when Jeannot stopped his travels because of the actions of his dog.
However, the blurb makes it feel as though there will be a lot more supernatural to the story than there is. It is more magical realism than fantasy, imo.
As I already said the writing is beautiful, but if you need a story to keep you entertained you might be disappointed in this one. It has a slow pace, and it moves backwards and forwards in the timeline. Nevertheless I enjoyed this book, and will keep my eye out for more by Zentner.