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Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochan

jane was here kernochan1 Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochan

Jane Was Here is an enigmatic read, crossing genres and prose styles and taking an unconventional narrative approach. Its far from an easy read, and reviewing it is even more of a task. Even a week after having finished this one, Im still musing over whether it was a successful effort or not, or whether my expectations as a reader affected my ability to truly accept this novel for what it is.

On the surface, the small New England town of Graynier is a pleasant enough, innocent affair, but as with all small towns there is plenty lying just beneath the surface. Each individuals story is known to everyone, but its common enough to turn a blind eye and pretend that all is as it should be. Thus, teen chemistry prodigy Seth Poonchwallas drug dealing goes uncommented upon so long as he keeps up his facade of academic achievement; housekeeper Marlys habit of earning a little cash on the side by taking home residents of the local B&B is well-known but largely unacknowledged; caretaker Hoyt is the town slackerdespite his multiple higher education degrees; and'Brett Sampson and his son Collin are blow-ins who are expected to make little impact on the social topography of the town.

From the beginning, however, its clear that were in for an unsettling ride. Kernochan wastes no time in scraping away the pleasant facade of Graynier and exposing its dark, gritty roots, and within a few chapters were well acquainted with the seedy side of things. To be honest, its all so grim that its difficult to identify with any of the charactersthey spin past in a maelstrom of misogyny, misanthropy, violence, and self-hatred, and it sometimes feels like all a bit much. Fortunately, Kernochans prose is beautiful, helping to make this bumpy ride slightly more palatable.

The various plot lines seem initially unrelated (and indeed, dont really come together until the end of the book), so it does take a few chapters for things to begin to resolve into something more solidthis occurs when the mysterious Jane arrives in town. Mysterious and oddly spoken, Jane affects all of those around her, soon becoming the central point not just of the narrative, but of the various characters lives as well. Jane claims to have once been a resident of Graynier, and though her memories are scattered, she knows that there is something significant to her past that needs to be uncovered.

Its difficult to say more without giving away the plot entirely, but Jane Was Here'is not a straightforward mystery, nor is it a standard portrayal of a modern day town. Rather, it looks at reincarnation and karma, and as the narrative progresses, bringing with it myriad flashbacks and old-time journal entries, we begin to see parallels between certain characters of Grayniers past and those of its present. Moreover, we begin to see how those who acted poorly in the past are affected now in the present dayand the results are haunting. As the book reaches its conclusion, we begin to see why so many of the main characters are so unlikeable and how they came to be so.

Jane Was Here'is an utterly eerie read, and the premise is certainly unusual and intriguing. However, I cant help but feel that its overly ambitious: though the author certainly has facility with prose and character, overall the book doesnt quite hang together. The three-part approach, with the middle section of the book being told in epistolary form, has something to do with this, but its also the extreme interconnectedness of the characters and their pasts that detracts somewhat from the novel as a whole. Still, its a novel thats worth taking a look at.

Rating: star Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochanstar Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochanstar Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochanblankstar Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochanblankstar Book Review: Jane Was Here by Sarah Kernochan (good)

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