DNF Review: The Shark Curtain, Chris Scofield (2015)

Friday, April 24th, 2015

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Goodreads’s First Reads program. Trigger warning for sexual assault and offensive language.)

Set against the changing terrain of middle-class values and the siren calls of art and puberty, The Shark Curtain invites us into Lily Asher’s wonderful, terrible world. The older of two girls growing up in suburban Portland, Oregon, in the mid-1960s, her inner life stands in quirky contrast to the loving but dysfunctional world around her.

Often misunderstood by her flawed but well-intentioned parents, teenage Lily orbits their tumultuous love affair, embracing what embraces her back: the ghost of her drowned dog, a lost aunt, numbers, shoe boxes, werewolves, rituals, and stories she pens herself (including one about a miscarried sibling she dubs “Frog Boy”). With “regular” visits from a wisecracking Jesus, an affectionate but combative friendship is born–a friendship that strains Lily’s grasp of reality as much as her patience.

From the violence of a Peeping Tom and catching Mom in flagrante delicto with the neighbor, to jungles in her closet, butlers under her bed, and barking in public, Lily struggles to balance her family’s expectations with the visions that continue to isolate her.

DNF at 36%. I just couldn’t with the nonhuman animals.

The same thing that first drew me to The Shark Curtain was what ultimately turned me off. I had foolishly assumed (hoped?) that the “ghost dog” would already belong to the spirit world at the story’s outset. Instead, we meet Mrs. Wiggins, an elderly St. Bernard who’s dying a slow and seemingly painful death due to cancer, on page ten.

My oldest dog, Peedee, has cancer; and Bucky and Cap, my childhood dogs – incidentally, St. Bernard-collie mixes – both died of cancer when I was twelve. My heart was not ready for this.

(More below the fold…)