Ida grew up with Jackson and James - where there was “I” there was a “J.” She can’t recall a time when she didn’t have them around, whether in their early days camping out in the boys’ room decorated with circus scenes, or later as teenagers when they were drinking on rooftops. While the world outside saw them as neighbors and friends, to each other the three formed a family unit - two brothers and a sister - not drawn from blood but from a deep need to fill a void in their single-parent households. Theirs was a relationship of communication without speaking, of understanding without judgment, of intimacy without rules and limits.
But as the three mature and emotions become more complex. Ida and Jackson find themselves to be more than just siblings. When Jackson’s somnambulism produces violent outbursts and James is hospitalized, Ida is paralyzed by the events that threaten to shatter her family and put it beyond her reach.
Kathleen Alcott’s striking debut, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, is an emotional, deeply layered love story that explores the dynamics of family when it defies bloodlines and societal conventions.
“The initial sense of beauty and sweetness between [Ida and Jackson] is tempered by uncomfortable intensity and claustrophobia…and what emerges as a whole is an emotional narrative that is not easy or relatable but that sparks with convincing pain and nostalgia.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets is a powerful and emotionally resonant novel that beautifully and with rare precision explores the magnetic danger of love. Alcott has found a language for the unsayable.” (Peter Orner, author of the New York Times Notable Book Esther Stories)
“The narrative…expertly interweaves Ida’s current reflections with her introspection about past events, some simple and innocent, others complex and appalling…All add dimension to each character and help establish the emotional depth of a well-told story. An accomplished debut.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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