Bloomsbury, $24.99 pb, 240 pp, 9781408895597
In the preface to Demi-Gods, a boy burns moths with a magnifying glass. A girl – the novel’s narrator, Willa – watches ‘khaki wings’ that seem to be ‘folded from rice paper’. She imagines ‘ten moths circling a candle to form a lantern’, cries later, but does not stop Patrick. The wings ignite ‘like dog-eared pages in a book’.
Like dog-eared pages, Willa’s memories are folded for revisiting. Memory, she thinks, returning to a handful of charged encounters with Patrick over many years, is a dwelling place both in the sense of a residence and ‘a lingering’. Lingering disrupts time. It holds and expands some moments, eclipsing others. In narrative terms, the novel’s vivid pieces enact the push-pull of magnification and erasure, set against the backdrop of a child’s developing awareness amidst neglectful and self-absorbed adults.