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.
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.