The Marriage of Sticks – Jonathan Carroll

The_Marriage_of_Sticks_-_Jonathan_Carroll_cover
Crane’s View #2

Miranda Romanac learns that an old flame has died, but begins to see him on the streets. When she gets involved with another man, the range of strange events increases to the point of danger.

Carroll mixes mundane reality with a couple of very interesting supernatural premises. The first half of the book is largely realistic, though Miranda begins to experience visions and visitations as she falls in love with a married man. In the second half, the fantastic elements predominate as she tries to come to terms with, and conquer, the things that are happening to her.

Overall, the book is interesting, and the protagonist fairly likable. The realistic portions of the book flow smoothly, though Miranda seems fascinated by status symbols. Everything is named – a Mayakovski poem, a Bremen typeface, and of course (for Carroll), one or another brand of fountain pen. It’s exhausting even when the names are familiar; far from adding natural color, it’s distracting.

I was sorry that Carroll did less than he might have with his supernatural elements. He mixes two clever premises, but almost immediately discards the more intriguing one (regarding fate). While he does a good job of building suspense, much of the resolution of the story is so opaque as to be incomprehensible. We are eventually told what has happened, but I didn’t see any obvious pointers to it in the narrative; we simply have to take on faith that the actions described have the effect described. Miranda, despite claims to the contrary, is more acted on than actor, and has few choices to make. Her journey is interesting, but more for the horror-tinged scenery than for its effect on her.

This is an interesting novel despite its flaws, and worth reading for its effective mix of mundane and magical. It takes place in the same location as Kissing the Beehive, and there are a few carryover characters and references, but these are primarily standalone books rather than a series.

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