Fiction

Magic Mushrooms and Paranormal Parrots

The back cover of Dean Garlick’s novella, Chloes, and its opening quote about the disassembled self – sourced from the inimitable Haruki Murakami – let you know that you are going to encounter some kind of self-fracturing in this book. But when it happens it nonetheless takes you by surprise, and holds your interest till the very last page.

Chloe is a twenty-something bank teller with a broken heart. Anson, her charming but feckless boyfriend has walked out on her after freaking out at their housewarming party, where a guest arrived with mushroom-and-pot brownies. Now Chloe would rather mope at home in her pyjamas than show up at her dull job. Into this scenario enters a parrot – one capable of magic – and Chloe’s life takes a “fantastic” turn.

Chloes, by Dean Garlick

Chloes
Dean Garlick
Illustrated by Nicole Legault

Lodge Press
$16.00
paper
80pp
978-0993714108

The stark contrast between responsible Chloe and bohemian Anson, the hilarious house party where everything goes wrong, and the description of first love gone awry are all clichés of sorts that could have made for a conventional tale. But Garlick shows a talent for surprise, tightly constructed plots, clever but believable dialogue, and the ability to brush his narrative with comic undertones. And despite its lean eighty pages, both Chloe and Anson acquire a bit more complexity as the story moves on.

The silent parrot, Suraj/Viktor, is a great character, and the two other humans in the story, Chloe’s friend Mykah and the bird-dealer Ron Boyd, are well developed. The writing uses some inventive turns of phrase – “Heaviness takes hold like an anaconda, squeezing consciousness into submission” – and the black- and-white, watercolour illustrations by Nicole Legault add to the book’s charm. I particularly enjoyed the psychedelic flavour of the housewarming party’s illustration, though the placement of visuals within the layout feels awkward at times. The marriage between text and graphics is not always easy, but the design works overall.

If there was some deep, dark meaning in Chloes, I missed it. But not every book needs to make a grand, ponderous statement. This is a smart, sassy read – and a quick one at that. mRb

Veena Gokhale’s Bombay Wali and other stories was published by Guernica Editions in 2013.

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