On the opening page of this mesmerizing first novel by the author of Open
, a man puts his head into the mouth of an alligator, with grisly results. Part of an industrial training video, the incident is shocking yet strangely static, stripped bare of emotion. The girl watching the video has seen it many times before and her listless fascination with its random inevitability sets the tone for an unsettling exploration of the reptilian side of human nature. Like the man in the video, Lisa Moore's characters knowingly, and even willfully, place themselves in danger. Seventeen-year-old Colleen reels recklessly from vigilante-style eco-terrorism to drunken one-night stands with strangers in downtown St. John's. Her aunt Madeleine (maker of the alligator video) ignores the signs of serious illness in order to finish one last film. Madeleine's leading actor, Isobel, perversely gives herself up to the influence of Valentin, a rapacious Russian drug dealer whose cold-blooded lust for cash ignites a violent series of events. Only Frank, the young hot-dog vendor who lives in the bed-sit below the Russian, shies away from danger, though he is dragged into it nonetheless: "He waited in case something else was coming. He waited for something else. He waited for things not to be the way they were. But everything was the way it was."
Cutting rapidly from one point of view to another, roaming freely between past and present in a single scene, and lingering sensuously over miniscule physical details (like the jar of faded forget-me-nots on Frank's windowsill), Lisa Moore is a stylist in a class with Virginia Woolf and Jeannette Winterson. While her dialogue can seem unnaturally confessional and the number of characters makes it difficult to identify with anyone for long, Alligator is a triumph. No one else in mainstream Canadian fiction writes quite like Lisa Moore. --Lisa Alward
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The powerful American debut of Canadian bestseller Moore does for Newfoundland what Empire Falls
did for dying smalltown Maine and The Sportswriter
did for suburban New Jersey. Seventeen-year-old Colleen Clark and her mother, Beverly, can't overcome their grief over the sudden death of David, Beverly's husband and Colleen's stepfather. While Beverly copes by dieting and retreating into herself, Colleen downloads videos of beheadings off the Internet and tries her hand at eco-terrorism ("I wanted to change things," she says about dumping sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank) before running away to Louisiana"where alligators troll the bayou. Madeleine, Beverly's older sister, scrambles to finish her cinematic opus before her heart"heavy with longing for her youth and gradually weakening due to an unnamed medical condition"gives out. Frank, a 19-year-old still reeling from his mother's death from cancer, obsesses over Colleen and finds himself intertwined with Valentin, a Russian gangster with his own tormented past. Powerfully drawn secondary characters"an actress in Madeleine's film, Valentin's lover"add depth to this generous novel. (Sept. 21)
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