Review: Monoceros by Suzette Mayr

MonocerosAt the centre of Suzette Mayr’s novel is Patrick Furey, a senior in high school who commits suicide after he is dumped by his secret boyfriend and is bullied by his boyfriend’s girlfriend (it’s complicated). From this shocking event unf olds the stories of seven people whose lives are deeply changed as a result of the suicide in their midst. It’s not so much that these people were close to Patrick, but that they are startled awake and find crises in their own lives.

Monoceros is a beautiful novel. I searched for other words to describe the book, but “beautiful” truly captures its essence in so many ways. Mayr writes in sparing prose, with an unconventional lack of quotation-marked dialogue (don’t worry, she uses em-dashes like the French). Her triumph is the seven alternating perspectives, in which each character leaps from the page full-formed and truly sympathetic. Characters doesn’t get much page space at a time, maybe two or three pages, but their stories, emotions, and reactions are concise and heartfelt.

While I would describe this as a very literary novel, it’s also very accessible to readers, with none of that obtuseness some literary prose. The literariness comes from the perfection and beauty in the writing, the careful threading together of the disparate lives of seven characters, and the searing examination of how hiding your true self can lead to a lot of hurt.

Monoceros by Suzette Mayr is published by Coach House Books, 2011.