The Rift

British Science Fiction Association Award winner Nina Allan (Spin) depicts what happens to a family when a loved one, missing for 20 years and presumed dead, suddenly reappears.

Selena and Julie Rouane are sisters who share a deep bond and a love for The X-Files. They play a game called alien spotting in which they attempt to identify oddly dressed and curiously behaved individuals as "alien." They drift apart as Julie moves into her teen years. She disappears in 1994, at 17; the Rouanes' lives are shattered. Selena's parents divorce, and her father's obsession with Julie's disappearance devolves into mental illness. Riddled with survivor's guilt, Selena struggles to forge her own individual identity. When Julie resurfaces 20 years later--with sensational stories that involve escaping a serial murderer, alien abduction and leading a parallel life on a planet called Tristane--Selena's sense of the real and rational fosters contention in their relationship.

Allan's story-within-a-story maintains a lyrical fuzziness, blurring reality and fiction as she reveals the various rifts that develop--among family members after Julie's disappearance, between the sisters and between planets. "Julie had split the world in two when she went missing, a divide so stark you could almost see it, if you thought about it, like a fork in the road." The abrupt switches between the sisters' versions of reality can leave more questions than answers. Nevertheless, the inventiveness of Julie's otherworldly existence, side-by-side with frank discussion of survivor's guilt, provides more than enough to make The Rift satisfying. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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