Mislaid by Nell Zink

Sometimes you read a book and think, “What was that?!?”  That’s what I’m thinking now that I’ve finished the perplexing but entertaining Mislaid by Nell Zink.  (I won a copy in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.)  It’s sort of a comedy of manners set in rural Virginia in the 1960’s, ’70’s and ’80’s.

But it’s not nearly as genteel as that descriptor would lead you to believe.    IMG_1843

In 1965, Peggy is a lesbian at a small women’s college called Stillwater.  She falls in love with and ends up marrying poetry professor Lee Fleming, who happens to be gay.  They have two children, a boy named Byrdie and a girl named Mireille.  Ten years in, Peggy is driven to leave Lee – only she takes just one child with her.  She and Mireille go underground, loving in a shack in a rural part of Virginia, assuming new names and identies – as a black mother and child.

Race, class, sexuality, academia – it’s all dissected in this wacky novel.  Only sometimes I think it was just a bit too zany for its own good.  I enjoyed it, though.  Zink has a light touch, a nice flow, a definite flair for pointed, wry comedy.  It started out a bit slow at first, but the novel really started flowing for me once Peggy and her daughter go into hiding.   I haven’t read her first book, The Wallcreeper, although I’ve heard some intriguing buzz about it and I’m interested.  Mislaid was a strange little bird of a book, but it was a fun read.

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