Feels like: Reading a postcard from an old college girlfriend who is traversing the globe to disguise her poor life choices, and the bitter feelings that come with it.
Song pairing: “Changed” by Jp Saxe (Vasco remix)
👗”I saw her face and she did not know that she was dying, did not know I was killing her.” 👗
This novel was on a few trustworthy reading lists, but it was really the aesthetics of the cover that drew me in. I added it immediately to my “Wish List” for my library, and when my branch manager made the purchase, I was ecstatic. The physical novel itself (published by the amazing indie Two Dollar Radio ) is without a doubt one of the finest things I’ve held in my hand in a long while. I’m a new devotee to Two Dollar Radio’s publishing style, and I won’t rest until I’ve stalked all of their prolific authors and possessed their catalog collection. Hooray for new obsessions, and new life goals (Life Goal #87: Publish a novel with Two Dollar Radio).
Melanie Finn’s The Gloaming was a slow burn. A brief layout of the novel finds Pilgrim Jones nursing the wounds of her recent separation from her incorrigible, cheating husband by traveling to a Tanzanian outpost and befriending locals in an earnest, if not meandering, attempt for distraction and purpose. Flashbacks reveal that these travels are not only about escape from a failed marriage, but from an awful automobile accident which killed three children waiting for a bus in a Swiss town. With Pilgrim at the wheel of a terrible fluke of destiny, devastating families and pushing Pilgrim toward the edge of her ability to cope, she seeks hope for atonement in another country and finds only mysterious warnings and violent curses.
The cast of characters we meet are memorable, the honest moments spent in Africa through the surreptitious gaze of Pilgrim make for fascinating imagery that lingers in the back of your mind. Finn finds the fine line between a redemption novel and the makings of folklore, while the ending packs its own graphic punch. The hopelessness of a father’s vengeance, the desperation of grief, and the random quality of life’s cruelty is so fluidly translated in the final scenes of Pilgrim’s “progress” (forgive my 17th century literary joke, but it keeps repeating in my head when I type her name so maybe now it will stop.) Pilgrim’s narrative ends rather abruptly towards the latter half of the book and is replaced by the experiences of several of those memorable characters we’ve met on her journey–I understand the narrative importance of this shift, but Pilgrim’s voice is so much more powerful.
I’ll read another Melanie Finn, firstly due to the lyrical prose of her writing and secondly for the unique situations she envisions for her characters. I couldn’t have dreamed up this novel if I had tried.
And it’s referenced in the book, but as an aside for those who want to know but will inevitably forget to Google it:
💣”Tom would say to me that violence becomes an identity, how people see themselves in the world, and to ask them to stop being violent is asking them to erase themselves.” 💣
⚖️”Hate does not diminish, I’m learning. It can shift atoms, congeal into matter. It takes shape in the material world.” ⚖️
✈️”I have nothing to live for–a bland expression that I now understand. That I welcome. Because life, like a wire, requires tension on both ends. You care to live and someone else cares that you live. What’s the point of holding the slack end?” ✈️
👨👧”Later hung upon the air with the almost visible density of dust.”👨👧