Susan Rukeyser's Reviews > Echolocation

Echolocation by Myfanwy Collins
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Apr 09, 2012

it was amazing

Read Echolocation’s first chapter and you’ll be unable to do anything but devour the entire book immediately. It's a perfectly-crafted opener, and one which sets the tone and pace of the storytelling you’re about to enjoy.

Echolocation is a beautifully structured book. Its captivating plot and back stories are revealed in ways that call to mind exactly the phenomenon from which it takes its title. Each character’s story starts small and tight, with acutely observed detail, then vibrates outwards, expanding to encompass time, disappointment, loss, offering insight into the past with morsels of information. It returns to the present with ever-increasing intensity.

The death of Auntie Marie means big changes for the women of her family. Theirs is a family complicated by unclear relationships and too much silence. Only one-armed Geneva remains in their tiny upstate NY town, helping to run the family’s gas station and store. Cheri and Renee must return in their own ways, fleeing danger both within and without, not necessarily understanding why they return. Auntie Marie is their only constant. As if by instinct, they fly towards the space she leaves behind.

The language of Echolocation is gorgeous and rhythmic, almost seductive, even when describing the least pretty human behaviors. Collins is a precise storyteller. She knows which words are enough. We come to care deeply for Geneva, Cheri, Renee, and the others, despite their terrible choices. There are strong male characters but this feels like a book of women—the best sort, not the least bit clichéd. These women do ugly things and hurt those who love them. But Collins insists we see they’re worthy of our respect and compassion. None of these women are hopeless, Collins seems to want us to know. Redemption is always possible—in part, at least, and however late. These characters are called home and away like bats to the forest, each return taking a slightly different path. Their looping journeys are messy and inexact. But they’re as inevitable as the winter's frozen earth and the thaw, every Spring.
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Myfanwy Susan, THANK you for this beautiful review. You had me in tears. I love how you circled back around. Thank you and thank you again!

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