In this playful yet poignant debut collection, Andrea Routley muddies the line between the physical and emotional worlds: reality becomes not simply what is in front of us, but a mutable, fragile place in the imagination.
On the verge of divorce, and in a pot-induced haze, Tom Douglas prepares to roast a pork shank in his new—and contentious—Authentic Italian Brick Oven, but some surprise visitors threaten to spoil the dinner. In a story set in 1997, the last earthbound member of a Hale-Bopp suicide cult reconsiders her final act. After being accused of sexual harassment, a sharp-witted but naïve teenager discovers a surprising truth about her teacher. In the title story, “Jane and the Whales,” Jane is on a quest to discover the meaning of her uncontrollable astral projections, which always lead her back to the same diminishing gay bar.
Violence, transmutation, log booms, tenderness, a game of Bat and Moth—all have a role to play in these wildly diverse stories. Many of Routley’s characters suffer loss, shame and guilt. But the promise of clarity comes only with doubt and that frightening unravelling of certainty.