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Backcast by Ann McMan

Backcast - Ann McMan

The beginning starts by introducing Barb, a metal sculpturalist contracted for a multi-layered show featuring feminist-centric essays and accompanying artwork. To that end, she brings together a cadre of characters to meet for a writing workshop at her cousin’s Vermont resort. There is a plethora of good humor from the start and excellent characterizations throughout. The story is primarily light-hearted interspersed with poignant essays written by these quirky women. Some essays are heart-wrenching, others are lighter, but all can be taken as a master class of how to cut to the heart of deep issues in a minimum number of characters. This was even more interesting for the reader because you never find out who wrote which essay until the end glossary. I want to read it again now that I’m armed with the knowledge of their deepest secrets, which I believe will make their reactions to circumstances even more enthralling.

The group of authors meeting together, some finding love, others finding opportunity, and still others are on the search to discover themselves. All are believably flawed and interesting for different reasons. Although this is in every way an ensemble piece, some women get more of a spotlight than others. Which was fine, as to give everyone the same screen time would have greatly inflated what is a surprisingly cohesive account.

My only real complaint was the overuse of character names. This was primarily noticeable with the frequent mention of one character in particular: V. Jay Jay. I get the joke, her name is humorous, though only really after a few mentions. After that I started to cringe every time she came onto a scene, which is unfortunate, as she was one of my favorite characters. Once Darien began calling her “Vee” I was hopeful it would switch to that, as everyone else was going by their first names/nicknames, but that never happened. I think I counted at one point 5-6 V. Jay Jay mentions in a single page, which was just way too much (and not just with her name, but all the characters I came to realize received the same treatment). I do understand why one would think repetitive mentions are necessary, as there are a lot of individuals to keep track of. However it all just became excessive. Aside from that, this was a very original story that was able to evoke an incredible depth of emotions in me, which is uncommon in a story with such a quirky cast. It doesn’t hurt that it features some good-natured ribbing at the lesfic genre as well. Do all the subplots get tied up perfectly? Mostly. Were there characters I didn’t feel like I got to spend enough time with? Certainly. But I highly recommend this one all the same. It was unexpectedly complex, and an absolute pleasure to read.