USEREVIEW 105 (Capsule): the half-drowned
the half-drowned (Metatron Press, 2022)
ISBN | 978-1-98835-525-2 | 144 pp | $18.00 CAD | BUY Here
I became acquainted with Trynne Delaney’s writing through their compelling, experimental ‘dark patterns: matrilineal family curse,’ described as a “poem nested in a genetic pedigree,” that appeared in the “2S+QTBIPOC” issue of CV2. Prior to book publication, a preponderance of Delaney’s publicly available work appears to have been poetry, including their self-published debut chapbook, death of the author (2019), and this poetic background is on full display in their linguistically attentive debut novella the half-drowned. As a speculative tale of a small oceanside community of Black survivors of a post-apocalyptic event that affected the Earth’s water supply and drove most privileged inhabitants to other planets, the book does by necessity contain skeletal elements of plot and world-building. Ultimately though the half-drowned seems to be far more interested in excavating the fragments of consciousness of a small cast of characters. Divided into brief, delicately written vignettes stylistically reminiscent of Jean Toomer’s classic collection Cane, the novella maintains a third person, over-the-shoulder point of view, but it habitually flits from the shoulder of one character to another, and the identity of the character being followed in a given section is often not explicitly demarcated. This engenders in the reader a visceral sense of the profoundly communal experience that these conscientiously interdependent characters share, and that the novella is shaped around.
On the whole, the half-drowned is a devotedly poetic prose debut that testifies eloquently to both the present talent and future potential of Delaney as an emerging writer — which is likely what the Quebec Writer’s Federation also thought when they awarded Delaney’s novella the 2022 “First Book Prize.”
‘Creation Myths’ (pp. 67–68) revels in abstract resonance and lyrical crypticism to acquaint the reader with an alien ‘it’ that both breathes like an animal and is factory-built like a machine.