American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett


This is a very weird book and I mean that in the most positive of ways. I also find it difficult to explain what it is about without spoiling too much.

It starts with Mona Bright. A former cop with a tragic past who drifts around with no job, no home, no nothing and is quite at ease with that. When her estranged father dies she learns that her mother, dead by suicide when Mona was a young girl, has left her a house she never knew existed in a town called Wink. Mona has never heard of Wink and the more she tries to find out about the town she discovers that Wink has dropped of the map, quite literally in fact. Eventually she finds out that Wink was built as a support community for a government lab conducting experiments in quantum physics. And her mother was one of the top scientists.

Finally arriving in the small town she starts attempting to piece together an image of who her mother was before she became the depressed woman who killed herself. And this is where the weird stuff starts. At first glance Wink is the perfect place as quoted:

Wink is a quiet place, a laughing place, a place where you can throw down a towel anywhere you want and stare up at the pale blue sky and no one will bat an eye, because it´s always early summer in Wink, and such things are meant to be enjoyed. Every second is forever in Wink. Every day is a cool afternoon waiting to happen. And every life is one lived quietly, with your feet up and your sun-dappled lawn before you as you watch the world happily drift by.

So basically it´s the perfect American town where every house has a well-watered well mowed lawn, white picket fence and where nothing bad ever happens. But that´s all i mirage, the townspeople are constantly trying to maintain an image of prosperity and happiness. And when bad things happen they just don´t talk about it. The entire town is in denial and they know it and are happy there.

Now here´s a minor spoiler: I´m a sucker for parallell universes. I find them fascinating. This was spoilery in the sense that there are places in Wink where you are in Wink but you are also somewhere else. You are Elsewhere.

“Some places in Wink are more than one place. Some places take you places you never expected. Rooms within rooms, doors within doors, worlds hidden within a thimble or a teacup.You just have to know where to look”

Mona follows the scraps of information she finds, trying to piece together what happened to her mother, the town and the lab. What she finds is a strange tale indeed and nothing like what either she or I expected.

This book falls between genres. It´s mystery, it´s sci-fi, it´s new weird, it´s existential horror and it´s a contemporary story about a woman trying to find answers. If it were made into a movie it would be a collaboration between the Cohen brothers and David Lynch. I tweeted the author expressing this and he said that was exactly what he had been going for!

If I were to criticize I would say that it was very long and could have done with some editing out of a subplot or two. And maybe the WARNING SPOILER: creepy aliens with mommy issues was taken a bit too far.

The author can undoubtedly write though and I would certainly recommend it to someone looking for something different.

I read this book as an advance copy given through