Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Zip: "Others of My Kind" by James Sallis

Zip: Others of My Kind by James Sallis, 2013, 9781620402092.

I was cleaning out older items from the New Book shelf and was reminded Sallis has a recent book there. This novel is Sallis length at 116 pages. Like other Sallis novels this has a lead character who is a loner. A person who prefers solitude and cannot also connect with others. (Well, that is the kind of Sallis characters I have run across before. I'm not saying I've read all his material.) I read this in KS during Thanksgiving vacation.

Jenny Rowan was eight when she was kidnapped, kept in a locked box under the kidnapper's bed for four years. (I think it was four years). The kidnapper started taking Jenny on outings and during a shopping mall trip she escaped. For 18 months Jenny lived in the mall. She became an urban legend as Mall Girl. Once she was finally nabbed by an authority she spent some time in state care until she petitioned for legal emancipation and started work as a waitress.

Anyhoo. Rowan is working as a video editor for a local TV station in D.C. when a Police Detective asks for her help in speaking to a young woman who was found under similar circumstances: kidnapped, held for a long time and sexually assaulted.

This isn't a crime novel. Rowan helps the other woman and even gives her a place to stay. The Vice President has her son kidnapped and Rowan writes a letter saying, Hey, I kinda know what you're going through, give me a call if you need to talk. Rowan date the Detective a couple times. Rowan is a video editing savant. Rowan never speaks of her past - the reader is one of the few people who know. Rowan severs all ties - except to fellow abductee - and moves to Florida.

I don't know if Sallis was working with a theme or goal in mind. I took a couple things away from the book, the first thing was Rowan's resilience. She almost completely forgot her life before her abduction. She lived under the abuse of her abductor for years. As a 12 year old she lived and survived on her for 18 months. After emancipation she worked as a waitress and then worked her way through her GED and college degree and then into a career.

Heck. Rowan's success and emotional stability are a bit too far fetched to believe in fiction. I suppose her narration might be glossing over a lot of her own trouble but the character always seemed honest to me. But, Rowan dates or mates with different men over time. She works a lot. She stays at home and reads. She throws out rare words like an auto-didacts I have known. She is incredibly empathetic.

That empathy is the second thing I remember from the novel. Whether as a waitress or her nurse work in the end of the novel Rowan's happiness and friendliness draw attention. Her kindness is turned into a vocational skill after she goes back to school to be a nurse.

1. Anyone heard Sallis's band perform? He has audio on his band website and they sound pretty good to me. No surprise that they perform a lot at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale.
2. Sallis looks a lot like the system admin guy for my library system.

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