Book Review: The Drowning Girl

Kiernan’s latest work is a complex, multilayered journey through the schizophrenic mind of India “Imp” Morgan Phelps as she recounts meeting a mysterious woman who is both a wolf and a mermaid. Mental illness gallops through Imp’s family tree and unfortunately, she is no exception. As Imp writes the story of the mystery woman, she freely admits to not being bound to conventional writing styles and it shows as the tale winds through an odd attraction to Phillip George Saltonstall and his haunting painting The Drowning Girl. Imp is equally disturbed by the different tellings of Little Red Riding Hood.

Imp meanders on with her story about Eva Canning while telling of meeting Abalyn, her lesbian lover. Often Imp and India interact like two separate people and it is clear, she has no idea what is true and what is a fabrication. Imp/India fear their illness is getting worse and as dreams and memories bubble to the surface, readers are just as confused as she is. The need to know what really happened during her meeting with Eva becomes an all-consuming obsession but did Imp really meet the woman twice or did her mind cunningly construct a defense mechanism?

This unusual, haunting thriller is a bit like following Alice into the rabbit hole; reality takes odd twists and turns leaving readers to wonder where the truth lies. The interaction between Imp and India adds to the impression of a severe mental disorder disrupting memories. The way the story perambulates takes some getting used to, especially if the reader is used to a fast, straightforward telling but this artfully presented tale is well worth the effort.

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