Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: Spilling Clarence

Spilling Clarence: A NovelSpilling Clarence: A Novel by Anne Ursu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The chemical factory in Clarence, that specializes in manufacturing drugs for mental disorders, catches fire releasing the chemical deletrium into the air. The town slowly comes under the drug’s spell and the restraints of memory are released, rendering Clarence residents nonfunctional.

An ideas novel with some beautiful meditations on memory with a hit-or-miss execution–similar in style to Kevin Brockmeier. There are many interesting routes this story goes down. The solitude of the individuals as they combat their memories is poignant. The care that people try to provide one another while they succumb and the repeating theme of children learning to become the caretakers for their adult guardians in unexpected circumstances is very moving. However, readers may get the feeling that more of these themes could be explored if the tone wasn’t a little too pleased with itself. For example, events in the narrative are referred to by chapter length within the book. There are many darker places the story could go especially since it seems Clarence suffers from all its bad memories first. But the book firmly steers us clear, despite it being hinted that there were some citizens that suffered badly, off-page. Also, there is something essentially gross about the character Todd that makes my skin crawl every time he’s on-page.

On the whole, an interesting debut novel with moments that will spark a reader’s daydreams.

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