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The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott - Excerpt

The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott - Excerpt

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4.06

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Published by otherpress
Ida grew up with Jackson and James—where there was “I” there was a “J.” She can’t recall a time when she didn’t have them around, whether in their early days camping out in the boys’ room decorated with circus scenes or later drinking on rooftops as teenagers. While the world outside saw them as neighbors and friends, to each other the three formed a family unit—two brothers and a sister—not drawn from blood, but drawn from a deep need to fill a void in their single parent households. Theirs was a relationship of communication without speaking, of understanding without judgment, of intimacy without rules and limits.
But as the three of them mature and emotions become more complex, Ida and Jackson find themselves more than just siblings. When Jackson’s somnambulism produces violent outbursts and James is hospitalized, Ida is paralyzed by the events that threaten to shatter her family and put it beyond her reach. Kathleen Alcott’s striking debut, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, is an emotional, deeply layered love story that explores the dynamics of family when it defies bloodlines and societal conventions.
Ida grew up with Jackson and James—where there was “I” there was a “J.” She can’t recall a time when she didn’t have them around, whether in their early days camping out in the boys’ room decorated with circus scenes or later drinking on rooftops as teenagers. While the world outside saw them as neighbors and friends, to each other the three formed a family unit—two brothers and a sister—not drawn from blood, but drawn from a deep need to fill a void in their single parent households. Theirs was a relationship of communication without speaking, of understanding without judgment, of intimacy without rules and limits.
But as the three of them mature and emotions become more complex, Ida and Jackson find themselves more than just siblings. When Jackson’s somnambulism produces violent outbursts and James is hospitalized, Ida is paralyzed by the events that threaten to shatter her family and put it beyond her reach. Kathleen Alcott’s striking debut, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, is an emotional, deeply layered love story that explores the dynamics of family when it defies bloodlines and societal conventions.

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Publish date: Sep 11, 2012
Added to Scribd: May 10, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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08/21/2013

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writestuff_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Ida is growing up motherless after a tragic accident took her mother’s life. James and Jackson are growing up fatherless when their father dies in prison. As their single parents connect, so do these three children, forming a family of sorts which grows more complicated as the years pass. Ida and Jackson’s relationship turns from a sibling love into a romantic connection, while James slips into mental illness. Jackson is also struggling with an unusual sleep disorder that is becoming more and more violent. Narrated in the singular and introspective voice of Ida, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets explores forbidden love, family dynamics, the search for identity, and recovery from loss.Ida, James and Jackson are sympathetic characters who are struggling to find roots in the face of mostly absent parenting. And they turn to each other – kids whose names begin with letters proximal to each other in the alphabet. This alphabetic coincidence is symbolic of their closeness, not only in geography, but in life experience and need which creates an intimacy and interdependency that devolves into something unhealthy. For James, the slip is into mental illness; but for Jackson and Ida, the result is an unraveling of their relationship altogether. Jackson’s repressed anger emerges through sleepwalking and violence – first toward objects, and then towards Ida. When Jackson moves on, Ida is left to wonder who she is without her childhood friend and lover.The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets is a bittersweet, often sad, coming of age novel. Kathleen Alcott deftly brings to life her characters with prose both lyrical and original. When we meet Ida she is reflecting back on her childhood – the loss of her mother, the complex relationship which develops between she and Jackson, the simple needs of a child who is feeling around in the dark and navigating the complicated path toward adulthood. Ida’s pain reverberates on the page – it is tangible and difficult and at times feels unbearable. Alcott captures the despair perfectly. But despite the drape of sadness in this story, Alcott does not leave her readers completely bereft of hope. Ida, James and Jackson morph and grow, they slip apart and drift back together…and through their journey luminous truths emerge to heal their broken hearts.The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets will appeal to readers who love literary fiction. This debut novel makes Kathleen Alcott an author to watch.Recommended.
thelostentwife reviewed this
Rated 5/5
The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets is a debut novel for Kathleen Alcott - but you wouldn't know it from her writing. This is a complex story about three people: Ida, Jackson, and James. Jackson and James are brothers, and Ida the young girl who grew up with them. The three form a bond as close as family - cemented by mutual loss. They have each lost one parent.With stark, beautiful language, Alcott puts this story out there, weaving between time successfully. I say she was successful because I was able to move from past to present back to past easily without being confused - and that indicates that something was right. When I read this book I felt as if I was slowly peeling back the petals of an artichoke, each piece giving me just a bit of a taste of the heart to come until it's there, beautiful and delicious and ready to be savored.I found so much beauty in this book. There's an entire chapter in which Ida details everything she knows about Jackson. We learn everything from intimate body details to favorite things. If you've ever taken a writing course, you know an exercise is to just write down facts about a character - to get inside that character and know him/her. Well, the chapter that does just that to Jackson is a perfect example of how wonderful that exercise is. I almost wept, it was that beautiful to read.This is a worthy novel, and one that would not only make excellent book club reading and discussions, but deserves every bit of attention it will doubtless receive. And to think it's Alcott's debut... wow. This is an author I'll be following, for sure.
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