A book billed as surreal, terrifying and darkly humorous, but which unfortunately didn’t hit me on any of those levels.
Juniper is set in a forgotten dust bowl of a town in the US, which recently experienced a flood and is now in the midst of a drought.
The action centers on two women. Betty, a widow whose children have long fled the coop and survives on road kill, and Janet, a victim of domestic abuse who breeds cats and sells them to the townsfolk for food.
The story revolves around Janet’s prime stud, Bucky, going missing, an event that brings things to a head in the lives of both women.
Juniper is well written. An easy to read novella that describes the heat of the tortured town in detail. I could taste the dust and smell the sweat along with the characters.
Unfortunately, I feel the use of cats as ‘livestock’ was a mistake. Much as I hate to say this, dogs would have worked much better in this scenario. Dogs, being larger animals, would provide more meat, have bigger litters and a huge, aggressive male would be much more threatening.
However, as this book concerns, at its core, the imprisonment of women by the men in their lives (or lack of them), I can’t help but think that the use of cats stood as a symbol for femininity being held captive and sacrificed for the good of others.
This is an interesting theme, but I would have liked the characters to be a bit more developed to do it justice and elevate a well worn storyline into something more. Perhaps if my knowledge of biology hadn’t destroyed a central conceit of this novella I would have found it more satisfying, but I must say I was disappointed by all the hype from the blurbs and reviews. I didn’t find it disturbing, surreal or humourous, but perhaps that says more about me.
It is, essentially, a look into the lives of two dried up women, abandoned and betrayed by their family in a dried up, abandoned town.
I award Juniper…
Juniper is available for $2.51 ebook and $10.10 print book on Amazon.