The Drowning Girl

Caitlín R. Kiernan
The Drowning Girl Cover

A spellbinding story


The Drowning Girl is the story of Imp, a woman struggling with schizophrenia who tries to exorcise her encounter, or encounters, with a siren, a ghost, a werewolf, or perhaps none of these things.

This synopsis might sound confusing, but it barely scratches the surface of this beautiful confusion of a novel. At times a stream of consciousness narrative, at others a mythological exploration, it often ventures into poetic and mythological flights of fancy, a journey to the heart of a soul in distress.

Imp herself is a magnificent protagonist, at once intelligent and vulnerable, self-aware and trapped in her own mind. One cannot help but feel strongly for her as her life takes a turn for the darker. She is an unreliable narrator through and through, even to herself, and trying to piece together the truth (or should I say, the facts) from her narrative is at once challenging and satisfying. She moves through her ghost story not through links of causality, but through symbols and associations, in the manner of the purest of fairy tales. She skirts around the edges of her pain, sometimes speaking in metaphor, sometimes lying. When the horror creeps into the story, it is that genuine night terror, the feeling of the world dissolving under the power of primordial symbols moving against you in the darkness.

Imp's partner Abalyn shone whenever she was on the page. I cannot, for the life of me, remember reading another transgender character written with such realism and tact. Moreover, neither her gender nor her sexual orientation form the central aspects of her character; they are a complex facet, at the core of her being, but not exclusively so. Abalyn is a geek and a gamer, and it's delightful to read about Imp trying to make sense of her world through her non-geek eyes. Ultimately, Abalyn and Imp are amazing together on the pages for the way their relationship transcend their own pains and failures.

The best books always pull you into their world to the point that it bleeds into real life, coloring your day. The Drowning Girl is definitely one of these books. Hard to piece together and follow sometimes, but unforgettable in its magnetic power to infuse the texture of days with a fairy tale logic of symbols and forces beyond our ken.

A truly spellbinding novel.