Book Review: Foxlowe

The cover of Foxlowe, by Eleanor Wassberg. A crumbling estate is flanked by leafless trees while a large orange sun (or full moon) sets behind the house in a white sky. Orange leaves flutter around the edge, as if blown off the trees by the wind, and everything is surrounded by dark blue and gray clouds along the edges. Everything is done an art deco stylized vector graphics style.

I finished Eleanor Wasserberg’s Foxlowe in September 2017 but somehow failed to write about it here until now. This is not because Foxlowe is a forgettable or unremarkable book; far from it. The lack speaks more to how busy I was (or how poorly I managed my time) and to the backlog of reviews I had to plow through.

The cover of Foxlowe, by Eleanor Wassberg. A crumbling estate is flanked by leafless trees while a large orange sun (or full moon) sets behind the house in a white sky. Orange leaves flutter around the edge, as if blown off the trees by the wind, and everything is surrounded by dark blue and gray clouds along the edges. Everything is done an art deco stylized vector graphics style.

 Author: Eleanor Wasserberg
My GoodReads rating: 5 Stars
Average GoodReads rating: 3.38
Language scaling: C1+
Summary: The decline and fall of the commune (or cult?) known as Foxlowe, as told by the young woman Green.
Content warning: There is some pretty serious child neglect and endangerment implied throughout, but Green’s voice and perspective keeps it from being sensationalized.
Recommended audience: Gothic literature fans; people interested in cults and fringe religious movements
In-depth thoughts: I might have seen Foxlowe appear on other book blogs here and there, but the one that tipped me to really wanting to read it was Juli’s review at A Universe in Words. The best way to get me interested in a book is to give me a little taste test of it; if the best idea in the world is executed poorly, I won’t be bothered, but if I like what I read I won’t let it go until I find it. So to that end, I appreciate that Juli always includes a little blurb from the novels she reviewed.
I cannot emphasize enough how amazing Wasserberg’s prose is. How do you write someone who grew up removed from society, who doesn’t have the same cultural frame of reference as everyone else, who lives in a world with Solstices and The Bad and no schooling and Spike Walks? How will they sound when they finally have to join the rest of the world? The voice that Wasserberg gives Green is a perfect balance of cultural ignorance and personal insight. Green might be uneducated and only semi-literate, but she expresses herself precisely and eloquently (if, sometimes, somewhat disconcertingly). It’s perfect for who she is and what she’s experienced.

At Foxlowe everyone has two names. One is a secret, meant to be lost. For most, it worked like this: first they had the one they came to Foxlowe with peeled away like sunburnt skin. Then a new name, for a new life.

I used to get jealous of the Family with their secret outside names, while I only had the one, like half a person. Sometimes an old name would slip, strangled at a syllable with a blush. This was a sign to watch for, in case someone might wish to be become a Leaver.

Now I am doubled that way, named twice, but for me, it’s worked in reverse: my new name came later, on the outside, like putting on that crusty old skin that should be lying on the floor.

 Needless to say I loved this debut from Wasserberg and I look forward to what she has to offer in the future!

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