little scratch

The debut work of experimental fiction by freelance writer Rebecca Watson, little scratch, is not an easy read. In fact, some might consider moving from one page to the next an outright chore. What awaits readers is a jumble of phrases and intersecting sentences that are neither poems nor paragraphs. Yet once audiences recognize the cadence of the narrator's traumatized thoughts, they might realize this novel is one of the most captivating books of the year.

The plot itself is nothing extraordinary: A young female assistant for a bigwig male media executive wakes up hung over. She goes to work, does her job, meets her boyfriend for a poetry reading and dinner, after which they return home and sleep together. The action takes place during a single day, and much of the actual content is dedicated to outlining mundane behaviors: cycling, typing, texting, spooning soup, checking e-mail, even using the restroom. We learn little of this assistant's background, nor her motivations--other than a desire to write that has since been lost. And for reasons that soon become clear, she can't stop scratching. It's an impulse, both pleasure and punishment, a coping mechanism for the horror she's processing: a horror that slowly reveals itself as rape.

The narrator is simple, ordinary, which is what makes her thoughts feel so unbearably intimate. She's an everywoman--she is us, the many who have suffered at the hands of those with power. Watson steers her protagonist with skill, leaving readers mournful and aching by the time she falls asleep. --Lauren Puckett, freelance writer

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