Review of Mislaid by Nell Zink

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Mislaid is a fun and quick read but one that ultimately fell flat for me.

The book is about Peggy, who has a fling with her male teacher at school named Lee Fleming.  Peggy and Lee eventually get married even though they are sorely mismatched for one another (Peggy is a lesbian and Lee is gay).  Peggy eventually runs off on Lee and takes her daughter Mickey with her.  She changes their identity to Meg (Peggy) and Karen (Mickey) Brown, an African American family that can pass as white.

The writing is often very clever and humorous. Meg, an unemployed and now single mother, looks for inventive ways to make money to support her makeshift family.  Karen is an okay student that eventually falls in love with her neighbour Temple.  Hijinks ensue for the family.

I enjoyed the first half of the book but then it steadily got more ridiculous towards the end. The last forty or so pages were completely absurd. While I enjoyed the humor for the most part, it got too silly for me.

Because this short novel spans approximately 30 years, there is little character development present.  The characters get older but we see very little development.  The lack of character development also made it difficult for me to care about what happens to them by the end.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since before it was released because of the hype that Zink’s Wallcreepers was getting.  In the end, I was disappointed.  That said, Nell Zink is an author that I’ll watch out for in the future because she is a talented and clever writer.  I can only hope that her future novels are less silly and more character driven.

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