Jac Jemc has written a novel so wonderful that if it were a dish served at a social event, I would ask the hostess for the recipe. If I were to place the various ingredients which make up this book I might say a dash of Kafka, maybe a pinch of those new wave French writers like Robbe-Grillet, and a tablespoon of Andre Breton’s classic “A Mad Love.” Mix it all up and place between two covers. Become horizontal, relax, and serve.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a surrealistic tangle of verse, but rather a straightforward narrative by a spouse who comes home to find his wife packed and gone. The narrator gives himself no name, and his one-time wife is known only as “my wife.” The lack of such specifics lends a slightly surreal air to the husband’s story as he remembers in a series of vignettes the life of his wife, rather than wondering, as the rest of us might have done, where in the hell she ran off to. The book is, in effect, a sort of obituary of a relationship which came off to me as detached and yet strangely loving and mournful at the same time.
Jemc writes beautiful sentences which construct the interlocking snapshots that constitute the entirety of this book. The narrator’s wife is an interesting woman, and you keep wanting to know more about her so as to solve her enigmatic nature. She works as a waitress and as an artist of sorts who likes to encounter strangers and record their life stories. She keeps her recordings archived in a locked closet which is off limits to her husband. She lives in her own world yet at the same time, remains her husband’s wife. Her enthusiasms and their sometimes sudden reversals made me wonder how long she would be content within the confines of such a traditional arrangement as marriage. That sense of restlessness adds a certain tension to the story and in the end I was not surprised by her departure. The wife is on to the next big thing and like the husband, the reader is left with a series of memories that almost make you utter aloud, who was that masked woman?
Enjoy this dish at room temperature; serves all who come. Goes best with red wine. Dig in.