The Between by Tananarive Due
Harper Perennial (HarperCollins) 1995
Tradepaper, 274 pages.
When Hilton was just a boy, his aged grandmother saved him from drowning by pulling him out of a treacherous ocean current, sacrificing her life for his. Now, thirty years later, Hilton begins to think his borrowed time is running out. His wife, the only elected African-American judge in Dade County, Florida, has begun receiving racist hate mail from a man she once prosecuted, and Hilton’s sleep is plagued by nightmares more horrible than any he has ever experienced.
As he battles both the psychotic stalking of his family and the unseen enemy that haunts his sleep, Hilton’s sense of reality is slipping away. Shocking and utterly convincing, “The Between” is a novel about a man desperately trying to hold on to the people and life he loves but may have already lost, and it holds readers suspended between the real and the surreal until the final moment of chilling resolution.—jacket copy
“Hilton was seven when his grandmother died, and it was a bad time. But it was worse when she died again.” From that very lovely opening, Tananarive Due crafts a pulse-thrumming tale of a man haunted by a “sinister fear” (45). The rhythmic quality of the writing draws Hilton’s consciousness from the page and his own increasingly confused sense of reality becomes the reader’s own. Italicized moments seep into the text between paragraphs, between “lucid” moments, into sentence ends. Some stretches exchange italics for the non-dreaming, non-subconscious spaces of non-stressed print. Are we experiencing mental illness or magical realism, or some semblance of both in that the human perceptions of reality holds a blurring, and moments of between, of dreaming…
In the Prologue, Due describes a young Hilton’s slip beneath the surface of the ocean, a teasing current pulling at his ankles, but soon, the playful becomes gripping as it seizes him in earnest (6), and such is the experience of the novel. The story begins as a delightful tinge of uncertainty only to smoothly shift in a breathless turning pages. The Between begs for some deeper cultural reads…and for a mature audience who understand the complicated emotions and relationships, as well as a deeper understanding of what would cause a man to fracture and to fight.
I’ve never read a Tananarive Due novel, and if this liquid lovely was her debut, you can bet I will be seeking out more by her. Another wonderful find via the Women of Genre Fiction Challenge; I am two for two.