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Eleanor, her husband named Hob and their little girl named Agnes, live under the cloud of Eleanor’s depression. When Agnes grows she has twin girls, naming one of them after the mother she misses. Like her mother before her, Agnes’s life is tainted by sadness, so much so that she rejects her own child, Eleanor. Eleanor tries to look after Agnes, but as she grows into a young woman the task becomes all the more difficult. Unable to move forward with her life and pulled down by the past, Eleanor one day steps through a door and finds herself somewhere else...
Eleanor (2016. 374 pages) is a mystery fantasy novel by Jason Gurley.
The book is set in three time periods. In 1962 the original Eleanor is coming to terms with being married to an older man, starting a family and watching her dreams of being an Olympic swimmer disappear, all the while the sea calls to her.
In 1985 Anges’s daughter Eleanor is growing up with her identical twin, Esmerelda, with whom she shares her life. Agnes’s decision to name her own child after her mother has more resonance than she intended.
In 1993, following a family tragedy, a fourteen year old Eleanor finds herself taking care of her alcoholic mother, who shows Eleanor nothing but contemptuous hate. It is at this point in her life that Eleanor starts to experience odd occurrences. She will step through a door and discover herself in a version of her past; through another is a vision from Hell. Each time she returns from her trips she questions her hold on her own sanity. However, she is not the only person aware of her strange travelling as her best friend Jack has seen her disappear.
Eleanor’s disappearances are connected to Mea, Efah and the valley of the Keeper. If this all seems a little vague it’s because it would be difficult to discuss these three without giving too much away and spoiling the book. Suffice it to say that they play a significant part in the surreal and fantastical elements of the book which commences around page eighty.
To get there you have to read some of the saddest and melancholy prose I have read in a long time. For each of the main characters a cloud seems to be permanently covering their lives. The tragedy of one generation causing pain in the next. It would be easy to make this part of the book just miserable, but Gurley’s eloquent lyrical prose give this section a kind of aching beauty.
Unfortunately, this also has the effect of so joining the two worlds that it did not take a genius to work out who Mea, Efah and the valley of the Keeper were and thereby where the story was likely to go. Even so, I defy you no to let this book touch your heart.