A startlingly original exploration of life…
Navajo shuns the conventional and ordinary in his debut, an experimental novella, to provide a snapshot of a motley crew of people’s everyday lives. The novel begins with three schoolgirls in London, Royanda, Ginie and Emma, traveling on a bus to go to a local dog race. Emma is intent on petting the greyhounds despite her friends’ warnings. The novel ends with the girls facing a life-altering incident after a stranger attacks Emma. But Navajo doesn’t follow the girls’ journey solely. Instead, he ventures into a collection of interwoven short stories about the bus’s other passengers: Mr. Campbell, the gentle, timid college instructor, who finds himself in trouble with the staff after his unsavory remark about a colleague; the lonely Mr. Darkard, trying to deal with the sudden death of his wife of many years; weighed down by the horrors of child abuse in her line of work, Caitlin is content to find temporary refuge in girls’ idle chatter on the bus. There is Mrs. Wojcik, the voluptuous widow, who is relishing the independence and sexual freedom the widowhood provides her; Amira, the bus driver, who hates the monotony of her day job, but does it nonetheless; the despairing single mother Julie at her wit’s end, with her 29-year old adult son still living at home; Mr. Huefara, a senile, British Muslim, is struggling to come to terms with his daughter getting married to a White man whom he doesn’t approve, and his bi-racial wife, who is disgusted by her husband’s hypocrisy. Ginie is one of the main characters, but it’s only in the end that she gets her due, with a major plot twist crafted around her. The slightly unhinged and eccentric Emma, with her fixation on climate change issues, remains the most interesting character in the novel. The narrative is a loose series of conceptual jumps of ideas (that comes from the characters’ heads), making the story feel scattered and forced and demanding a very careful reading on the reader’s part. And though Navajo seems to have a solid grasp on the ideas at play in the novel, his characters remain strangers for the most part, making it difficult for the reader to feel connected to their griefs. But they are real, authentic, and fully alive. And he is excellent when it comes to capturing both the blessings of everyday life and the accompanying struggles that are vital part of living. The novel is not for everyone. Only a small percentage will appreciate this experimental meld.
Pub date November 5, 2020