October 21st, 2009 by admin

Misconceptions book cover

Misconceptions book cover

I continue to be impressed by the quality of serious lit coming out of our corner-O-the-world.

One recent point-with-pride example: Misconception, the first novel by Ryan Boudinot (a current Writer in Residence at Seattle’s own Hugo House).

The story’s plot is deceptively simple. Our hero, Cedar Rivers, is reunited with his middle-school crush, Kat. She’s written a memoir of their time together in small-town Wash. state, centered around her pregnancy and abortion—a pregnancy conceived, she insisted to him at the time, by her mother’s creepy new fiancee. The predicament had sent the confused, virginal Cedar into a brooding, complex course of vengeance, with clumsy and disastrous consequences.

But  the novel’s genius isn’t the story itself but the way Boudinot tells it. The narrative goes back and forth, in time and in point of view—with a catch. Everything set in the present day (including Kat’s quoted dialogue) is by the adult Cedar. Everything set in the past (even the parts written from Cedar’s first-person perspective) is by the adult Kat, as part of her memoir manuscript.

If you lose track of all this, don’t worry. The story still makes sense. So, thankfully, do the characters. Both Kat and Cedar had long since moved on from that youthful trauma, forming successful (separate) adult lives. But a shared past like theirs never really goes away. Boudinot deftly traverses the rocky path from his clever (if superficial) basic schtick, into the depths of overt and repressed agonies.

And along the way, he sneaks in some darkly funny gags about awkward, hyper-embarrasing pubescent sexuality. One of these starts out the book, as the adult Cedar reads the adult Kat’s account of the younger Cedar bringing a novel experiment to science class—a lab slide of his own semen.

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