A review of


by Lindsay Ahl

Central question: Can you be a witness to something that never happened?
Format: 230 pages, paperback; Size: 8.92” x 6.14”; Price: $14.00; Print run: 5,000; Publisher: Coffee House Press; Editor: Christopher Fischbach; Cover Art: Mike Devito; Designer: Linda Koutsky; Typeface: Caslon; Time spent writing: Officially, three years. (She began a novel ten years ago, which turned into three different novels, of which Desire is one.); Novel is an ode to: Faulkner; Number of times this reader underlined a sentence she loved: Five; Representative sentence: “But the world I want to enter is always disappearing before I get there, and the world I enter is never the same as the one I dreamed about.”

Lindsay Ahl, in her self-reflexive and at times hallucinatory novel Desire, tells the story of two Elenas, a mother and a daughter, whose pasts straddle the tricky border dividing memory from imagination. Daughter Elena grapples with the childhood memory of mother Elena’s murder in Kenya, an event that she may or may not have witnessed, an event that may or may not have even happened.

Shifting between present-day New Mexico (where grown daughter Elena works as an anthropologist) and flashbacks to seventies Africa, Desire is a ghost story where even the ghosts are haunted. Elena’s memories of the narcissistic and reckless Elena Monroe (referred to herein with surname intact) show a mother who loved her daughter as a type of hateful obligation. When Elena was nine, her mother looked at her palm and said, “You’ll never be loved, see there? You have no heart line. No heart line means that you’ll be just like me.”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Amanda Stern

Amanda Stern is the author of The Long Haul (Soft Skull Press, 2003). She curates and hosts the Happy Ending Reading Series in lower Manhattan and is at work on her second novel. She can be scoured at www.amandastern.com.

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