In this poignant debut collection, Andrea Routley muddies the line between the physical and emotional worlds: reality becomes not simply what is in front of us, but a mutable, fragile place in the imagination.
On the verge of divorce, and in a pot-induced haze, Tom Douglas prepares to roast a pork shank in his new—and contentious—Authentic Italian Brick Oven, but some surprise visitors threaten to spoil the dinner. In a story set in 1997, the last earthbound member of a Hale-Bopp suicide cult reconsiders her final act. After being accused of sexual harassment, a sharp-witted but naïve teenager discovers a surprising truth about her teacher. In the title story, “Jane and the Whales,” Jane is on a quest to discover the meaning of her uncontrollable astral projections, which always lead her back to the same diminishing gay bar.
Violence, transmutation, log booms, tenderness, a game of Bat and Moth—all have a role to play in these wildly diverse stories. Many of Routley’s characters suffer loss, shame and guilt. But the promise of clarity comes only with doubt and that frightening unravelling of certainty.
He Leaves His Face in the Funeral Car is elegiac, lyrical, ironic; a series of reflections, recollections; a collection about relationships—to family, clocks, water, trees, ungulates, endings—recognizing that not all relationships are straightforward: a mother’s secret false teeth, a teakettle riddled with bullet holes, pears and small knives. To leave a face in the funeral car is to fall out of time, to fall into history, to ponder the meanings of dust, the quiet records of suicide. This is poetry that covers a broad range, wide and changing, the strangeness of everyday life buoyed by the solace of language, the pleasure of song. Each word in its right place, each poem reflecting beyond surface meaning.