Follow Me Downby Kio Stark
It begins with an envelope. Twenty years old, maybe more, with the dust of the dead-letter office still clinging to the stained, fraying paper. It arrives in the mailbox of Lucy with the address of a vacant neighborhood lot barely legible on the front. Inside she finds only a photograph of a man she does not recognize, but whose face captivates her instantly. She
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Follow Me Down based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Follow Me Down invites you in slowly, leading you into an dark mystery step by step. We only learn about the narrator from her small observations of city life in the downtrodden area she lives in. It's difficulty to develop an understanding or a relationship with her as she comes across with little effect or internal thoughts. No one in the neighborhood is particularly interested in revealing details about past events or the people associated with them. As a result, one is drawn quickly into the forgotten crime she has stumbled upon. With the arrival of an old envelope containing a photograph the questions surrounding an empty lot draw the reader into the tale.Stark's book reads like detective fiction, but is pursuing the conflict one experiences between surface vs depth and how we learn to trust our own perceptions. In fact, the only thing we truly learn about the narrator is that she is beautiful. It's the one thing she admits to and this appears to be supported by her ability to quickly acquire a boyfriend and her observations about her looks from people on the street. There is a unique oddness as we follow the story about uncertain horror of the hidden crime. We follow deeper into the tale and move toward the main perpetrator. The small observations and turn of a specific phrase are great to read. The story concludes with a direct confrontation that brings into focus some of the ideas explored in the book.It is satisfying there is a deeper consideration of the idea of how we know what we know and what clues we can use to determine this. The best part of Follow Me Down is that it's one of those books that you start to think about days, even weeks after reading it. For example, a investigative police show on TV reminds one of the journey into hidden history of an empty lot. I liked how the book reads like pulp fiction but feels like philosophy. Highly recommended.
[Originally reviewed at The Nervous Breakdown.] "Sometimes what you want is to be somewhere you do not belong." Kio Stark's lyrical Follow Me Down (Red Lemonade) is a densely packed novella that wanders the projects of New York City capturing the lives of the people that live there in glorious detail-photographs melting into still life paintings, fingers smudged from handling wet paint that should have been left to dry. Sometimes you get a little dirty when you dig, and sometimes people need to disappear. Our protagonist, Lucy is unwilling and unable to turn her back on a mysterious letter that has been freed from the dead-letter office by unknown forces-a picture inside lost for twenty years, the echo of her long lost brother murmuring in the empty corners of her apartment. We follow Lucy as she tries to get to the bottom of this mystery. She sees the world for all that it is: dangerous and heartbreaking and kind. The characters of her gritty neighborhood streets-the people she sees on the subway as she commutes to her dull job in an office high up in the metal skyscrapers-they are her muse. These people embody her every waking hope and fear. They are her touchstone and lodestone-her dysfunctional adopted family. Early on in this story we get a sense of Lucy's mental state, her unique point of view, and her sense of wanderlust and fractured personal history, running from secrets and pain: "There was a knock at the door and I didn't answer. The same knock, over so many years. The same man on the far side of the door, looking for redemption we both know won't hold. When his footsteps faded, I packed a bag and boarded a bus. Disappearing was easier than I thought it would be." These opening lines set the tone for the words that follow, a heavy setting filled with emotional turmoil-a balance of numb loss and childlike wonder at the beauty that still exists around her. More of her past leaks out a few pages later, shedding some light on the darkness that shadows our heroine: "I had a brother once. The last time he knocked on my door, I didn't answer. He had been the light in my eyes, an earnest and unprotected boy, foolish and charming. I lost him to the city. The last time he knocked on my door was the day I left him behind." As we explore the world around Lucy, the misfits and delinquents around her-a mix of jealous girls, predatory suitors, and protective thugs-she captures these moments in lush, vivid details that reveal the eccentricities and mental instability of everyone she encounters: "On a crowded corner there's a young man with tight shoulders and clipped hair. Tourists surround him but he doesn't see them, he's staring out across the street into the far distance of his imagination. His hands are moving in a pattern that repeats, it seems for a moment like the signs of the cross: Father, Son, Holy Ghost. But it's not, the motions are more intricate and subtle. He flicks two fingers at his chin, and suddenly I see that his fingers are talking, it's sign language, and by the long stare it is clear that his hands are talking to himself. He says the same thing over and over until at last the light changes and his hands drop to his sides, his fingers still moving like pistons, muttering at the sidewalk." [Continued at The Nervous Breakdown.]