On the day of Lucretia’s (Loochie) birthday party, Loochie’s elder brother Louis warns Loochie and her best friend Sunny of the Kroons. The Kroons have lived in apartment 6D for as long as anyone can Louis can remember and as a result of their crack addictions, are deformed beyond measure. Louis regales Loochie with the tale of how the Kroons very nearly once captured him and how when children go missing at the hands of the Kroons, they are never seen again. Loochie, who was only looking forward to spending time with her best friend after Sunny’s cancer treatment, is horrified.
It seems that Loochie is right to be scared out of her wits. Not long after Louis and their mum leave the apartment, there’s a sound at the window and Loochie can see a figure crouching. She’s too scared to do anything, but too drawn to run away and hide. The figure is of an adult and while Loochie can’t make out any features through the security gates, she can tell that it’s not a sight she wants to see. The figure manages to crack open the window and shoves through something very familiar … Sunny’s hat.
There’s no question about what she's going to do next: Loochie is straight up out of her apartment fire escape and into apartment 6D. Sunny is her best friend and however terrified she might be following Louis’ scary stories, she’ll do anything to get her friend back. Once into the apartment of nightmares, everything Loochie ever knew as reality is turned onto its head. She finds herself in the middle of a park with the Kroons chasing after her and with the knowledge that her mother will be back soon and sunny missing, Loochie must find her best friend before their time is up …
This was the first book I have been pre-approved for from NetGalley (thanks RHCP!) and so I was mega-excited about it. The opening page starts out brilliantly and really set out the tone for the novella, but after that, I only got more confused and it all went downhill from there. Here’s my favourite paragraph of the book anyway:
"Most twelve-year-olds don't know much about death, and that's the way it should be. But a handful get the knowledge too soon. You can see it in their eyes, a sliver of sorrow floating in the iris, visible even at the happiest of times. Those kids have encountered that enemy, too soon and will always bear its scars.”
This was one confusing story. I think I get the gist of the moral of the story and the message that Lavalle is trying to communicate about the breadth of the human imagination and how mental illnesses should be treated, but I hadn’t expected the book to go down this route, and so when it did, it was just a bit unsettling and strange.
LatK is written with a narrator and I’m fascinated. You don’t get very many books written this way and so when you do come across one, it’s immediately obvious and little quirks in the writing remind you of it all the way through. The famous ones that come to mind are To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice and so this was novel and made for a different read. There’s also horror elements but they’re woven in so well that it’s like you’re just trapped in a nightmare that you’ll wake up from, as opposed to a scary reality.
This is a poignant story of loss, showing that being young doesn't protect you from the horrors of life. To be honest, it wasn't my thing. It was an interesting concept and beautifully written, but by the time I finally got my head around it, I'd reached the end of the book so couldn't appreciate the revelation. However, the beauty of the writing might be enough to convince me to pick up another Victor Lavalle title in the future.
Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction