Meijer’s sharp, enjoyable debut novel (after Rag, a story collection) is a bildungsroman that develops the themes of loneliness, sexuality, nature, and violence that her readers will recognize from her short fiction. After 15-year-old Xie, a vegan environmentalist, and two friends protest animal cruelty by breaking into a mink farm and releasing the animals, Xie is caught and kicked out of high school. He rides his bike everywhere and eats very little, as he is constantly aware of his impact on the environment. He struggles with wanting to take up less space and to be one with the earth, which becomes apparent in his sexual fascination with the bones of a fifth-century Christian martyr that he steals from an abandoned church near his house and caresses at night in bed, imagining a chimeric skeleton body. When he takes radical action against a logging company set on cutting down the forest where he came across the church and his beloved bones, the consequences of his sabotage could be larger than he imagined. This affecting investigation of ethics in a natural world struggling for survival will appeal to readers of character-driven eco-fiction. (Sept.)
"One of the most bizarre, brilliant books I’ve read this year . . . We often talk about brave, unique fiction, but explaining what it looks like is tough. The Seventh Mansion makes this task easier: unique, bold fiction looks like this." Gabino Iglesias, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
"This twisty and complicated debut novel from short story writer Meijer is the perfect climate-related fall fiction read . . . This book is slim but packed with complex characters and questions, including what it means to live on a changing planet." Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"[A] strange, inventive first novel . . . Meijer spins a contemporary fable of lust, devotion, and transgression that will challenge readers to examine all the ways they move through the world. A sensitive, nuanced meditation on radical politics, queerness, and the responsibility of care." Kirkus
"Meijer’s sharp, enjoyable debut novel is a bildungsroman that develops the themes of loneliness, sexuality, nature, and violence . . . This affecting investigation of ethics in a natural world struggling for survival will appeal to readers of character-driven eco-fiction." Publishers Weekly
"Reading The Seventh Mansion feels like receiving a divine transmission from a burning bushI was beguiled by Maryse Meijer's brave and darting sentences and challenged by the questions raised. Can a life be led without doing harm? Or should we forcefully dismantle the machines that act violently on our behalf?" Catherine Lacey, author of Pew
“With astute empathy and tenderness, The Seventh Mansion brilliantly examines what it means to be human in a diminishing earthly world. Maryse Meijer’s exquisite prose captures the beauty and ache of longing, and the desperation to save ourselves and the world around us. In this slim and stunning novel, Meijer beautifully answers the burning human question of what we really need to survive. This is truly the perfect love story.” Crissy Van Meter, author of Creatures
"Maryse Meijer's The Seventh Mansion is one of the best books I've read in years. I feel like I've been waiting all my life for this book, like it was written specifically for me. It does what I treasure most in fiction: it takes the grotesque and makes it gorgeous. It humanizes all of us by humanizing one of us. Meijer makes the unholy holy, turns the grim dark into the blinding light. I don't recall reading a book simultaneously so horrifying and so romantic. This book made me dizzy with writer's envy and did that most wonderful of things: it made me want to try harder, be better. The Seventh Mansion is aflame with passion and I want to burn inside it forever." Daniel Kraus, coauthor of The Shape of Water, and author of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch
DEBUT NOVEL Suspended from school after participating in an animal rights protest gone wrong, Xie expends most of his energy tending his garden and pursuing additional environmental causes. Painfully lonely and lacking in social skills, Xie develops a fascination with Christian martyrs and mystical theology, an obsession that manifests itself sexually and leads him to commit a highly unusual crime. Despite attempts to connect with him by his well-meaning father and his tutor Karen (who has personal struggles of her own), Xie cannot steer himself away from his monomaniacal pursuits, which ultimately leads to tragedy. Although it comes early, it would be unfair to reveal the novel's most surprising plot twist, which may cause some readers to recoil in revulsion. The book combines stream of consciousness with intermittent third- and second-person narration, indicating Xie's volatile state of mind. VERDICT Meijer (Rag) does a creditable job of connecting the troubled psychology of a contemporary teen with the sometimes lurid accounts of the lives of saints, suggesting that the extremities of their respective devotions are similar. Not for everyone, but refreshingly bold and original.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
In this strange, inventive first novel, Meijer examines the ethics of environmental activism through the prism of teenage angst and idealism.
When 16-year-old Xie lands in hot water after liberating minks from a local farm, his despairing father hires a tutor and yields control of their vegan diet to Xie. Ostracized in his Southern town and at school for his radical politics, Xie's only friends are Leni and Jo, fellow travelers in their three-person punk environmentalist group FKK. Despite his political convictions, Xie is quiet, anxious, and uncertain of himself. Meijer writes in jagged sentence fragments, highlighting Xie's skittering internal dialogue. At times the effect is lyric and prismatic; at others, Xie's narrative comes out in heaving gasps—as if he is afraid to reveal his innermost desires even to himself. At the heart of the book lie questions about what it means to live an ethical life under late-stage capitalism, including how best to love others. Leery of physical contact, Xie becomes obsessed with Pancratius, a fourth-century saint martyred for refusing to slaughter a lamb, whose bones he discovers in a local chapel. After Xie steals the skeleton, he begins a spiritual and erotic relationship with P., as he calls the saint, who follows Xie, ghostlike, from tutoring sessions to club dance floors to environmental actions. Late in the novel, Xie must at last confront why he's driven to environmental action at the expense of his physical and mental well-being. "Why did you call me here," Xie implores his ghostly boyfriend. "P.'s hands on his hips from behind. That breath that is not breath on his neck. Night heavy on his head. I didn't call you, beloved. You called yourself." From the first golden rays of P.'s ghostly form to the tragedy and triumph of Xie's final protest, Meijer spins a contemporary fable of lust, devotion, and transgression that will challenge readers to examine all the ways they move through the world.
A sensitive, nuanced meditation on radical politics, queerness, and the responsibility of care.