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.
Illustrated by Nicole Legault
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