Intergeneration storytelling is not a new framing device, but that does not take away from the poignancy that the multiple perspectives can build. LONG DIVISION is such a novel that takes full advantage of its structure while following a damaged woman digging through her family’s past to find understanding in her own life.
The role of narrator switches between Leigh Fortune and her ninety four year old grandmother, Gertrude Littlefield. What’s missing in this familial chain is Leigh’s mother, Beverly, an alcoholic who had offloaded her daughter into Gertrude’s care when Leigh was just a child. Decades later, now an adult, Leigh has taken it upon herself to keep track of her elderly grandmother’s mail. One day, she receives a letter addressed to Gertrude, written by an unfamiliar man, announcing that Beverly has passed away.
From there, half of the novel follows Gertrude. Stuck in a nursing home, she spends her time eavesdropping on the staff to alleviate her boredom. Her flashbacks are littered throughout the novel as she tries to unravel her role within Beverly’s downward spiral. The other half is with Leigh, examining the cracks in her personhood left from the impact of her deeply flawed mother, who herself was raised by a less than perfect parent. Despite Beverly only appearing through memories, her presence is constant through the mother and daughter she left behind and she holds her own as the third protagonist. The storytelling is incredibly human and honest, exploring how a person can be blinded by their own intentions.
While there are no real unexpected turns or surprises within the plot, the prose is strong and engaging. Leigh’s difficulty in finding grief for her mother, Gertrude facing her regrets in her old age, and Leigh’s misgivings towards her upcoming marriage, LONG DIVISION weaves between several facets of the characters’ lives but gives each a good amount of time to develop. Descriptors are unique and thoughtful, drawing from domestic familiarities to pull the reader beside the narrator. The ugly snags and tender moments in marriage, divorce, child-rearing, and mental health are written in rich imagery and colorful metaphors. The characters’ arcs carry great weight as the story never shies away from their pain.
LONG DIVISION is a novel whose fluid narration and rich imagery carries a story that is deeply personal to its characters but universal in its themes.
~Yi Zou for IndieReader