Book Reviews

Review: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior balances a plot full of suspenseful folklore, a teenager in transition, and Native American heritage all in one. These elements of the plot combine to form a novella that will captivate, question, and unsettle you. By the end, it is impossible to tell where we stand at the border of reality and fantasy.

Summary

One mysterious night, a fifteen-year old is convinced he sees a figure walking through the house. Who else could it be but his long dead father who died on the reservation? Determined to find out more about his father, he follows him, trying to unravel the purpose of his father’s visit. What does his father have to say? And why is he here? What he’ll find out will disturb his family and wrap them up in a series of unexplainable events that will haunt them forever.

Review

This novella is amazingly rich, full of details and a phenomenal main character. You can practically hear the character whispering in your ears. His tone is vivid, speaking with a flair, and, even more so, vulnerable. There is something compelling about his quest to connect with his father, something I am sure most with absent parents can empathize with. At the same time, his love for his family is admirable. However, all of this changes subtly, as his character and actions intersect with the plot.

There’s not much I can say without spoiling the plot, and even now I still don’t know what the ‘truth’ is – a true stroke of a good writer. There are twists and turns that leave you questioning everything, the protagonist, the story, the reality of his world. Truly excellent. Jones reminds us that even love and loyalty can manifest themselves in startling ways – dangerous ways. Not only is love inspiration for kindness and compassion, but also for over protectiveness, like clipping a birds wings so it remains with you forever.

Perhaps this sentence alone can capture the suspense, the eeriness that never quite leaves you, even when you finish this novella. While there is a distinct lack of horrific vampires, or zombie chase scenes, there remains a dangerous undercurrent: a recognition that there are forces at work. This subtle horror and suspense not only keeps you on your toes, but is paints what is could be a simple story of a boy who imagines his absent father, as something far deeper.

Native American Heritage

Additionally, I want to mention the way Jones incorporates the Native American heritage into the story. It is refreshing and unlike anything I have ever read. It is not about the way that the protagonist’s heritage is mentioned, but in the subtle ways Jones speaks about it: the way it influences our actions, the media’s influence on our self-perception of our own culture. In the novella, identity is dealt with, as a whole, in a variety of nuanced ways.

In Conclusion,

I was utterly blown away by Mapping the Interior and it is a story I know I’ll read again. There are a wealth of references, identity struggles, and mystery within these pages. You can find Mapping the Interior on Amazon (US), add it to Goodreads, and visit Jones’ website.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.

Discussion

 

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