It’s so gratifying to happen upon a hypnotic book by a first time novelist such as Another Place You’ve Never Been by Rebecca Kauffman. This New Title Tuesday selection is a non-assuming little treasure that both breaks your heart for the characters’ loneliness as well as smile at the common denominator that is ordinary life. Through a series of vignettes that are connected by the characters’ relationship to Tracy.
Summary: In her mid-thirties and living in Buffalo, NY (where she is originally from), Tracy spends most days at the restaurant where she works as a hostess, despite her aspirations of a career that would make use of her creative talents. Tracy’s life is explored not only though her own personal point of view, but also through the viewpoints of other characters, wherein Tracy may only make a peripheral appearance or even emerges at different periods in her life. Kauffman subtly exposes the lives of these characters-alongside the presences of spiritually mysterious Native American figures that appear throughout-and gradually reveals the true purposes of both as their paths intersect.
Kauffman’s prose is somber and there’s not one unnecessary word, yet she somehow creates vivid cinematic images with that minimalist approach to detail. Each character no matter how minor is complex and fragile. Although the recurring themes are loss and isolation, there is also human resilience and hope.
Another Place You’ve Never Been begins with an Ojibwe tale that creates a spiritual thread through the book. Two-Spirit is connected to water and is said to appear to an individual who is nearing death but is also said to possess healing power. The author does not overuse this device so it adds a bit of other worldliness to the otherwise all too ordinary struggle through daily life.
Named by Publishers Weekly as a Big Indie Book of Fall 2016, Another Place You’ve Never Been is a commendable first effort and I expect we’ll see more of Kauffman’s work before long.
Happy Reading! Susan C.