The Natashas

In The Natashas, two seemingly disparate performers fall down a rabbit hole of sights and sounds that spotlight society's obsession with poisonous sexuality. César, an ambitious and talented Mexican actor, gets his big break by playing a serial killer, but his fascination with the killer's character grows dangerous. Meanwhile, the beautiful and lonely jazz singer Béatrice is captivated by a seductive, enigmatic woman named Polina, who may or may not exist completely within Béatrice's own mind. Reigning over them are the Natashas, a collection of sexually objectified mystery women who appear as both angels of meaning and harbingers of punishment.

Yelena Moskovich's debut novel reads like a montage of Kafka-esque visuals that both hypnotize and horrify their audience. While the plot rejects classic coherence, the atmosphere and tone vibrate in a reader's mind long after the story has ended. The novel isn't a detective story, per se, but the haunting images and pitch-perfect reverberations suggest a twisted noir fantasy that both unsettles and challenges the reader. The novel's most spellbinding moments, however, aren't the depictions of extravagant lust or garish physicality, but the unexpected sweetness that simple intimacy can have: for instance, when Béatrice's sister would "climb into her bed and pull her in close." Like a singer's "do-bee-do-bee-do" melody, these gentle notes soar above the piece's pointed screech. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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