Book Review: The Shark Curtain

Dec 4, 2015

The Shark Curtain by Chris Scofield

This is KLCC. I’m Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of "The Shark Curtain” by Chris Scofield.

“The Shark Curtain” is the first novel by Chris Scofield, who lives in Eugene with her husband and (according to the book jacket) two goldfish. Though it’s not for every audience, I found “The Shark Curtain” an absolutely bewitching book.

I hesitated to review it for you, because it’s being marketed as a Young Adult book. While I enjoy YA literature, and despite the crossover success of some YA books with wide audiences – John Green’s “Fault in the Stars” comes to mind – I try to keep the balance relevant to the typical KLCC listener. And last month’s book, “Jackaby,” was also a YA book with first-person narration by a teenaged girl.

However, “The Shark Curtain” is entirely different.

The story covers life within a dysfunctional family in the Portland of the 1960s. It’s told entirely from the point of view of a highly imaginative and possibly autistic older daughter, Lily Asher, as she matures from 13 to 16. Her sidekicks include imaginary companions: the ghost of her drowned dog and a wisecracking Jesus. Her Mom’s an alcoholic and artist, her dad gambles; her younger sister calls Lily a “weirdo.”

Scofield has crafted a dense, poignant book, filled with extraordinarily beautiful language. “The Shark Curtain” of the title refers to the shimmering veil that Lily tries to navigate between imagination and reality. It’s somewhat unsettling to read as – like Lily herself – you are never quite sure which parts of the story match with an external reality. In exploring themes such as art, sex, and self-acceptance, Scofield examines the trade-offs we all make to be included in the tribe.

With its complex characters and mature themes, I think the book’s most appreciative audience may well be more adult than teen.

This is KLCC. I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing "The Shark Curtain” by Chris Scofield.