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Emotionally Weird is a thoroughly original and hilarious new novel about mothers, daughters, and love, by the author of Behind the Scenes at the Museum
On a weather-beaten island off the coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother, Nora, take refuge in the large, mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories. Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear--like who her real father was. Effie tells various versions of her life at college, where in fact she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom Klingons are as real as Spaniards and Germans.
But as mother and daughter spin their tales, strange things are happening around them. Is Effie being followed? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?
In a brilliant comic narrative which explores the nonsensical power of language and meaning, Kate Atkinson has created another magical masterpiece.
When Atkinson's first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, beat out Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh for the 1995 Whitbread Book of the Year Award, a controversy in the British press ensued. But this imaginative and unconventional writer strikes back at her detractors in her third book (after Human Croquet), skewering the academic literary establishment with understated but spot-on humor, while telling an imaginative tale both outrageously funny and poignantly human: Tom Robbins meets John Irving. Euphemia "Effie" Andrews, a 21-year-old Scot and student at the University of Dundee, arrives at a remote, barren Scottish island to swap life stories with her mother, Nora. Effie comes with a slew of tales about the free-love and druggy chaos of her early 1970s college life, and also armed with questions for Nora, determined to learn the truth about their family history. That is, if Nora is her mother, and if any of the stories either of them tell are true ("My mother is a virgin"). These are unreliable narrators in top form, keeping readers guessing delightedly throughout. The author uses different fonts to intertwine several narratives, including hilarious entries from Effie's, and her classmates', novels-in-progress, while these excerpts are interrupted by Nora's snide commentary. Effie's academic hijinks may be a bit exaggerated, since she's slogging along on a paper on George Eliot while living with occasional electricity and a continually stoned boyfriend. But truly alarming things are happening in Dundee: someone is killing residents of a retirement home, and a strange woman is following Effie. While the narrators' constant backtalk can be tiresome, Atkinson's clever and sophisticated prose preserves the voices' sparkling energy. Readers may guess the family secret before it is revealed, but that doesn't steal any thunder from the unsettling and utterly original denouement.