Luminous Body, Brooke Warra’s lovely novella, is a beautiful, rich, and unnervingly honest amalgam of family ties, motherhood, illness, and body horror. It is an engrossing story of a life lived on and beyond the margins, masterfully told.
I don’t know quite how to describe Luminous Body. It covers so much ground in so few pages– family dynamics, exploitative relationships, unhealthy friendships, memory, addiction, and lies. Warra’s language and phrasing is wonderful, precise and evocative. Her skill in drawing her characters renders them painfully real, fully developed and as hopeful and damaged as any of us are. It is a slice of life colored with strange magic.
I wish I had written it.
Mo, the narrator, comes from a long line of tenacious but marginalized women. Her mother died several years earlier, and she never knew her father. Mo is mentally ill by her own admission. She scrapes by, working as a waitress at her grandmother’s diner. She lives in a cheap apartment, does her nails with magic markers, drinks too much, smokes, and sleeps around. She is damaged, and, like any of us, is just trying to deal with it and get by.
And then one day she discovers she is pregnant. And then she discovers she is not. And then the mystery at the heart of Luminous Body begins.
Beautifully realized, Warra’s tale is full of the fine, awkward details that make up a tangled and misspent life. Every mistake, bad decision, manipulation and abandonment feels true. By the time Mo’s narrative slides sideways into the weird, that feels like just one more genuine experience, too.
This is the kind of book you read for the writing as much as for the plot. Gorgeously illustrated by Brooke Warra’s daughter, Zoe Leigh, Luminous Body is currently available as a limited edition, numbered chapbook from Dim Shores. I cannot recommend it highly enough.