Eugen Bacon, Claiming T-Mo
Eugen Bacon, Claiming T-Mo, Meerkat Press, 2019.
Claiming T-Mo is a unique story blurring boundaries between scifi and fantasy and telling the story of three women-a mother, a lover, a daughter- and their relationship to T-Mo, a troubled man.
CW: child abuse.
Silhouette is married at 13 to a priest. From the wedding a boy is born. Following her traditions, Silhouette calls him T-Mo, but the father decides to call him Odysseus. The boy grows up, with two distinct personalities, one charming and sunny, the other violent and dark. Silhouette flees, and the boy, now a young man, goes to Earth where he meets Salem who falls in love with him.
Claiming T-Mo is a multi-generational tale following Silhouette, Salem and her daughter, Myra. Their experiences, and the times they live in, are different, but all are confronted to violence and loss. Nonetheless, there's a fundamental hope within the novel, because each woman confronts, in her own way, the situation she's in. They not only fight for themselves, they also discover who they are in the process.
They all evolve in worlds which are powerful reminders of the real world: child abuse and violent traditions, mixed race children and racism, refugees... The themes evolve as we follow chronology and Bacon presents us a picture of what was and what is.
The prose is probably the highlight of the novel. It carried me through the first quarter of the novel which is mostly about maternal and romantic love, two themes I'm not keen on. From the second quarter of the novel, the characters and the world gain depth, the pace picks up, and the prose remains just as magnificent.
Bacon has crafted very distinct voices for each of her characters, and, to me, the work she did on Silhouette's is a work of art, reminiscent of Nalo Hopkinson's prose.
Finally, Claiming T-Mo is wonderfully imaginative, which is well carried by the prose, and the descriptions of some of the planets, or of Myra's daughter's powers as a toddler, convey a sense of awe.
Claiming T-Mo is a unique novel, filled with humanity's flaws and beauty, with remarkable characters. Having loved some of Eugen Bacon's short stories, I was glad to read a novel by her. I certainly hope it won't be her last.
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I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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