cover image We Are Light

We Are Light

Gerda Blees, trans. from the Dutch by Michele Hutchinson. World Editions, $17.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-64286-127-3

Blees makes her English language debut with a riveting experimental novel about a commune where the members’ belief that they can live on light and love alone proves fatal for one of them. The story is told from many points of view, ranging from the light referenced in the title and other nonhuman perspectives to the commune’s neighbors and the police investigating the death as a potential murder. Elisabeth, one of the four members of the Sound & Love Commune, has died from malnourishment. Her younger sister, Melodie, a failed cellist, thinks she’s helping the psychologically unstable Petrus and Muriel by encouraging them to continue believing it’s possible for them to live without food. The police, disagreeing, arrest the three survivors on charges of murder. Other chapters delve into the reasons why the characters joined the commune. One, narrated by the scent of oranges, recounts the origins of Petrus’s distress, showing how as a child he repeatedly found moldy oranges placed by bullies in his school bag. Another, taking the voice of the internet, portrays a guru named Maruko who influenced the group with his “nine day process” meant to “liberate oneself from food.” Blees maintains a brisk pace as the investigation unfolds and her troubled characters come to distinctive life. This is a winner. (Aug.)