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Read an Excerpt from Anomia by Jade Wallace

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Mystery and missing-person stories are not a rarity in novel-length fiction, but, there are authors brave enough to bend form and invent new and exciting approaches that set their take on the genre apart from the rest.

In ANOMIA (Palimpsest Press), Jade Wallace takes us to Euphoria, a fictional town that feels displaced in time and space, and where a wealthy couple have disappeared. One of their estranged friends, Fir, is the only one to notice that they're missing, and without the help of police, Fir recruits a moonlighting security guard to search for the lost couple. As the search gets stranger and the mystery deepens, new characters emerge in the story to create an interconnected group, all bound by and orbiting these key event.

It's a novel that creates "a folkloric alternate reality where sex and gender have been forgotten," and that shares a kinship to the inventive contemporary works of authors like Joshua Whitehead and Akwaeke Emerzi.

Here's an excerpt from this incredible new work, and one that we're thrilled to share today on Open Book.


Excerpt from ANOMIA by Jade Wallace:

It is not a trip to be made too often, especially for Slip, who is a little ghost of a person, diminutive in size as well as persona. Pigment has slithered from Slip’s hair, soft tissue has fled from Slip’s frame. A lifetime has sucked the calcium from Slip’s skeleton. Even Slip’s owl- round glasses are translucent, as though they too are disappearing. Yet those same long years of living have made the weekly trek into the Unwood necessary. Without children, without a living spouse, siblings, or parents, and with most acquaintances long since dead or their names forgotten, nearly everyone Slip meets these days is a stranger. And all strangers offer is irritation. Only the deer of the Unwood, wary at a distance and terrified up close, have retained their regard for Slip, who returns their favour.

Jade Wallace (Photo by Mark Laliberte)

Jade Wallace (Photo by Mark Laliberte)

Today, bending to press fingers to an aching right ankle, Slip glimpses spots of lightness among the grasses whose blades are wide as rope. The lightnesses, wax-white as Slip’s hair, appear at first to be mushrooms, livid and smooth, gathered close in a fairy ring. Slip moves closer, crouches down gingerly, and brushes off the green. The mushrooms are bones. Whose bones? There is no taxonomist, no taxidermist, available to consult in the Unwood where humankind can be neither seen nor heard.

For all we know, the bones might have been scattered during a carnival of predators. A raucous and callow ritual, with vines hung for ratty streamers overhead, half-chewed meat strewn on the floor. After the party, only the detritivores would have remained to lick the plates.

Slip laboriously clears the flora from the bones, which form no discernible shape. The temptation to rationalize the bones into a skeleton is overwhelming. Once they are ordered, the bones might

convey a different meaning. If Slip does nothing, the bones will soon be completely interred by verdure, which would not be so bad for the bones, but it would be a disappointing outcome for Slip. There is some worth in figuring out what kind of animal the bones used to be. Isn’t there?

Stirring the bones from their rest profanes a sacred stillness. Nevertheless, Slip continues with the work: ruffling the feathers of ferns to see whether they conceal the last organs of a corpse, brushing soil away from its own protrusions, gathering the findings in an elegant mass. There are more bones than Slip expected, but also fewer, for though the bones are many there is no skull. Without the skull, it is hard for a layperson to make sense of the long, the short, the irregular, and the sesamoid bones, and even the other flat bones. Slip could as easily be looking at a horse as at a human being. Perhaps, if the ribs still formed a single cage, Slip could articulate the skeleton and get some sense of scale. Scattered as they are, the bones signify nothing but death.

As the light leaves the sky, Slip departs.

Jade Wallace (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, and disabled writer, editor and critic. Their debut poetry collection, Love Is A Place But You Cannot Live There, (Guernica Editions) came out in 2023. Wallace is co-founder of MA|DE, a collaborative writing entity, whose debut collection ZZOO is forthcoming from Palimpsest Press.

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In Euphoria, a small, fictional town that feels displaced in time and space , an affluent but isolated couple have vanished from their suburban home. Their estranged friend, Fir, a local video store employee, is the only person who notices their disappearance. When the police refuse to help, Fir recruits Fain, who moonlights as a security guard, and they set off on a seemingly hopeless search for the lost lovers. Their chance at an answer, if they can ever find it, lies on the wooded edge of Euphoria, where Slip, an elderly trailer park resident, finds a scattering of bones that cannot be identified. Distrusting everyone, Slip undertakes a would-be solitary quest to discover the bones’ identity. Yet secretly, Limn and Mal, two bored, true crime-loving teenagers from the trailer park, are dogging Slip. Determined to bring justice to the dead, Limn and Mal will instead bring the lives of all seven characters into fraught and tangled confrontation.

Beneath the familiar surface of this missing-persons novel lies an unparalleled experiment: the creation of a folkloric alternate reality where sex and gender have been forgotten. Expanding on the work of Anne Garréta’s Sphinx and Jeannette Winterson’s Written on the Body, and joining gender-confronting contemporaries like Joshua Whitehead’s Jonny Appleseed and Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji,  Anomia is an atmospheric exploration of a possible world, and a possible language, existing without reference to sex or gender.