Within minutes of pre-ordering How To Catch a Coyote by Christy Crutchfield, I was handed an ARC by its publisher, Adam Robinson. I began reading it in a dentist chair (which is definitely a kind of bath, hence the category label on this post) and finished reading it a day later, at the expense of all other work, so absorbed was I in this multivalent narrative of many years in the life of a very difficult family. Sharp cuts in chronology and a kind of chill resistance to poignancy and emotiveness distinguish the novel from the many that expect our empathy or identification as a matter of course instead of asking, as this book does, whether we can possibly empathize or identify with these characters, and what that even means, and whether we even want to.
I was about to get a filling replaced because one fell out and left a hole with a sharp edge that trapped little bits of whatever I was eating no matter how much I tried to chew on the left side only. This turned out to be a great place to start reading How To Catch a Coyote because it is full of teeth and traps.
When I typed multivalent narrative above, which was an edit of the hackneyed layered narrative, what I hoped I meant was from many angles since the book shifts among second and then mostly close third-person POV, but close to all different characters. It turns out I meant nothing of the sort, since multivalent actually means having or susceptible to many applications, interpretations, meanings, or values. This is much more to the point. The POV, the dips and skips of chronology, and other formal devices that you’ll see for yourself are not, IMO, the thing this novel is, though they certainly incandesce around and expertly minister to the thing that this novel is. The thing that this novel is is, is the susceptibility of it, of us, of the characters in the face of not knowing for sure.
No spoilers! I want to wait until you’ve read it to talk about it more. This novel is very very topical, and it will be topical forever or at least as long as there are fathers and daughters, and mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons, and mothers and sons, and–most crucially, I would hazard, but we can talk about it more–brothers and sisters (bcc: Ronan Farrow or does that give too much away?).
Pre-order this book so we can all talk about it a lot. I think it would be a really good book to talk about with college students, and I think it would be a really good book club book, too. Adam and I discovered that we had diverging takes on a single sentence, is how much there is to talk about in this book. I can’t wait until all of you read it!
The beautiful lumberjack Mel Bosworth—with Christy “Peach Cinnamon” Crutchfield—has started a terrific archive of small press reviews from over the years, with new ones to come, elegantly called The Small Press Book Review. The blog is retro and easy to navigate, and the reviews are clear and concise. A great new resource if you’re curious about some of those books you’ve heard about but haven’t yet plucked.