Friday, March 5, 2021

"Forget Me Not"

Born and raised in upstate New York, Alexandra Oliva is the author of The Last One. She has a BA in history from Yale University and an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, dog, and young son.

Oliva applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Forget Me Not, and reported the following:
Page 69 starts with the main character, Linda, opening the door of her apartment and retrieving a box someone has left in the hallway. Inside the box are cookies, a wrapped gift, and a note. It’s essentially an apology/peace offering from her neighbor, Anvi. (There was a pretty intense scene a few pages earlier; secrets were revealed, and it didn’t go well.) Linda then puts the box aside and checks Anvi’s social media profile to see if the gift-giving is sincere or performative. It appears to be sincere. Next, Linda searches for #clonegirl, a hashtag that went viral years ago and indicates—inaccurately—Linda herself. She looks at an old picture of herself as a feral young girl who’d just escaped from the isolated, walled-off property where she’d essentially raised herself, and thinks about how unprepared that girl was for everything that would happen in the years following her escape. She thinks about how right that girl was to be afraid.

I think readers opening to page 69 of Forget Me Not would get a sense of some of the primary themes of the novel—Linda’s isolation and anxiety, a taste of the strangeness of her background—but not necessarily of the novel’s pacing. There was a series of reveals a few pages earlier, including a high-emotion scene that is one of my favorite parts of the whole book. Now, around page 69, the story is taking a breath to recover and ground itself before everything really gets kicked into high gear. It’s an important moment and in the flow of the novel it accomplishes a lot, but I could see how a reader who opened up to just that page might think the plot is less exciting than it actually is.

So, as far as the page 69 test is concerned, it’s a close call, but ultimately I think it works. It just might work better for some readers than others. The page is a little slower than most of the rest of the book, but the eeriness of Linda evaluating the photo of herself as a child, recognizing from a distance how monstrous that feral girl must have seemed to the people who found her—but also remembering how it felt to be that girl, how comfortable she’d been as a wild, dirty thing—captures the suspense and tension at the heart of the story.
Visit Alexandra Oliva's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last One.

Coffee with a Canine: Alexandra Oliva & Codex.

--Marshal Zeringue