Jennifer's Reviews > The Drowning Girl

The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
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May 24, 2012

it was amazing

The novel is so brilliantly written that it's impossible to pin down the plot in any understandable way. Kiernan traps the reader inside the mind of India Morgan Phelps, a young woman with Schizophrenia. At times terrifying, at other times beautiful, the novel is full of concrete imagery so powerful that it's hard not to believe every single detail that Imp tells us even though Imp herself admits to confusion and uncertainty throughout. You become lost with Imp as she attempts to bring the events of two different times together and into a cohesive whole. At the end we're left wondering, with her, whether either of the events ever happened at all or was one or both of them just spiral thought formations she built upon for herself.

Mental illness is a close to home topic for me to read about even in novel form. It's a topic I've never really sought out to read and this novel was just a random pick from the library stacks. I grew up my whole life with a mother with Bi Polar Disorder (commonly called Manic Depression) and in my High School years I witnessed her sinking so deeply gone that she had to spend weeks locked away in the mental ward of a hospital one hour from home so that she'd survive and heal. It was during her last hospital stay that my Mom roomed with a middle aged woman with Schizophrenia at the hospital. Mom exchanged addresses with this woman to "keep in touch" during their recovery once both were released. The letters started out normally enough but would spiral into vivid imagery of flaming swords, angels and demons all in lines written in various stages of capitalization and no sense whatsoever to be made from them. I came to understand from those letters how very "warped" the thought process is of a Schizophrenic. It must be terrible to be aware of how far you've strayed and yet have no idea how to work your way back. I think that's why this novel grabbed me so hard. The entire time we're following India's thoughts and illustrations of events, she's very aware of how not aware she might be and yet can't be any other way.

I really have no way to express how awesome this book is. You read every single word in every single chapter and yet you have no idea what's really happening. Yet there is structure and repetition and everything flows sensibly enough despite that. It's confusingly beautiful.

One note I'd make is you're least bit offended by transvestites or lesbians or mental illness or Rhode Island or wolves or art, then you probably just skip over this-but it would be your loss!


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