Praise & Reviews for Quick Kills
Lynn Lurie's second novel, Quick Kills, is a jagged wound that refuses to heal. The wound is reopened time and time again; it bleeds itself dry and scabs over only to be picked at by the clumsy hands of the hunters who make the young girls of the story their prey. Though short, Quick Kills is rich with tense, foreboding material that crosses the lines of consent and violation, need and want, dread and desire, love and the dark, nameless thing that pretends to be love.
A young girl grows up in precarious circumstances. She watches as the girls around her become women, suddenly aware of their more devious inclinations. She watches as her own older sister is visited nightly by their abusive father, and her observations are coated with a thick layer of jealousy. Following a description of her sister's nightly ritual in preparation for their father, she explains:"
I wasn't born yet when she waited for him, but I was there (…) when she let him rub her back or reach under her shirt to straighten her bra strap, when she rested her head in the crook of his neck and sighed.
"This main character — whose name appears so infrequently as to be virtually nonexistent — becomes a fly on the wall of her own life, and her often detached perspective stands starkly against such evocative themes. She carefully examines the fragmented details of her life: blood that seeps into her sandwich bread and covers the driveway after her father guts a kill, moss and algae that grow along the water like an unknown disease, death that bookends nearly every story of her childhood. It is that lack of touch, that need to feel something concrete, that permeates Quick Kills — as the narrator rubs her hands up and down her mother's fur coat-covered back and is pushed away; as she hates her father and yet desires his attentions so fervently; and when she finally, as a child, begins her own sexual relationship with a much older photographer who photographs her nude before forcing himself inside her. This, she believes, is what she needs.
"Even the newscaster couldn't say if Patty Hearst was kidnapped or if she had gone willingly," she states within the first few pages of the book. Certainty that is uncertain and memory that fades are constants throughout Lurie's book, and the photographs in her story that once froze pockets of time eventually become ruined; they are lost, found, and discarded. "I don't remember" are the words that stick throughout the story and in the years that follow. As she attempts to come to terms with the events that are lost, or that she's in the process of losing, memory becomes, for Lurie's narrator, both a crippling and empowering phenomenon.
The need for identity has a similar duality, and the power of Lurie's work is present in the idea of transformation that is persistent in her novel. In one instance, the Photographer melds together photos of his young lover and turns her into a "garden hose of coiled snakes," where the last one faces back "as it tries to swallow itself." The narrator becomes the ouroboros — that same symbol of rebirth and change that she attempts to capture in her own costume-based photography projects. She becomes everyone and no one. She becomes Eve and revels in her nakedness, owning it as her own even as she presents it to the Photographer. Throughout her pain and her struggle, throughout the neglect and the abuse and the feelings of futility and, most of all, self-blame, it is these moments that shine through and lend a unique voice to Lurie's novel.
It's not the first time – and certainly not the last – that these difficult subjects will be broached in literature, but it's interesting to see how each author chooses to tackle it. Nabokov's Lolita was seductive and strange, enduring through time as something that entrances us through its morbid fascination with the taboo. Quick Kills is a harsher work, less fantastic and more approachable. Lurie's words cut deep and force the reader to reexamine and reevaluate the truth of their own memories. There are some wounds that never seem to stop bleeding. Quick Kills is one of them."
"A potent command of language enables this gifted author to leave an unforgettable mark on those who have lived through her work."
Prepare to be disturbed by this slim but disquieting novel about the perils of youth and the trespasses committed against a young girl. This second novel by Lurie (Corner of the Dead, 2008) is purposefully vague in its descriptions but nevertheless carries with it a feeling of dread for its unnamed female narrator. As the book opens, she is roughly 13 years old and engaged in an unsuitable relationship with a photographer who tells her that young girls fill canvasses and who takes many, many nude photographs of her. She also has a rough-and-tumble brother, Jake, and a fragile sister, Helen. Their father, a hunter, also seems to represent an omnipresent threat. In one scene, Helen arrives with smeared eyeliner, trailing blood: "As she passes me in the foyer, she says to Mother. I had nothing to do with this. Why don't you ask Daddy?" The mother in question is equally guilty of the crimes of this household, emotionally absent and quick to overlook the obvious damage being done to her daughters. As the narrator indulges her own interests in photographing the world around her, readers should experience these flashes of imagery much as she does—the grotesque and the beautiful, all wrapped up in one another. By the end of the book, it becomes a story of survivor's guilt as the narrator invests her hurt in brief, broken and unwise liaisons. "By having done nothing all these years I didn't protect the others that must have come after me," she admits, in the end. As a bildungsroman, the story is lacking in detail, emotional depth and character arc, but it nevertheless leaves a frightening and lingering restlessness in its wake that may be hard for readers to shake.
A ghost story about the inner life of a girl who lives among monsters."