Saturday, April 09, 2011

Kalila-Rosemary Nixon

It's become abundantly clear that to navigate the thicket of novels out there with literary merit, it's always a good idea to go to those who have produced short story collections first.
The writing and structure of Rosemary Nixon's first novel, Kalila (Goose Lane Editions) takes a difficult subject and turns it into prose that is sharp, precise and beautiful.

Maggie and Brodie Solantz are the parents of Kalila, which means beautiful, though it's her misfortune to spend all of her young life in a neonatal care facility in Calgary, due to a host of medical troubles that doctors can't pin down.
Without giving away an ending, I seldom tear up at the modern novel (three times, perhaps) but the strength and structure of Kalila, combined with the author's own history gives this novel an authenticity that's easy to spot, and impossible to ignore.
There's nothing maudlin or overwrought here. Kalila is genuine, contained and nearly perfectly executed.
The characters of Brodie and Maggie are formed by images and memory, as opposed to overcooked dialogue and it informs their humanity greatly.
Nixon apparently wrote Kalila over a fifteen year period and it shows. I believe she passed up obvious avenues to broaden the books appeal, but this is too precise and fully realized to be a Jodi Picoult novel.
I appreciated the subtlety and restraint in Kalila, and it's one of the finest books I've read this year.
I'm very excited to see her when she comes to town on April 12.
Please see the website at


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