James Sallis : Others of My Kind (2013)

Other of my kind

Back in 2012 I read and reviewed Drive by James Sallis. I’ve been meaning to read more of him ever since and when I saw Others of My Kind at a local book shop I decided to read it.

The narrator of the book is Jenny, a woman who had been abducted as a child and held captive in a box under a bed for a couple of years. When her captor comes home at night, he gets her out, abuses and plays with her.  After managing to escape she lives in mall before she’s found and enters the foster care system. Suing for emancipation she becomes an adult at the age of 16. When the novel opens she works as production editor for a local TV station. One evening, when returning home from work, a detective waits for her in front of her house. Recognizing a fellow loner when she sees one, she asks the handsome detective in and serves him dinner. Right away there’s an intimacy and an understanding between the two. Jack has come to ask Jenny a favour. A twenty year-old woman who has been kept under similar circumstances has been found. The young woman shows signs of trauma and isn’t talking. Jack believes it would help if Jenny spoke to her. She agrees and the incident triggers memoroes of her own past.

Others of My Kind is a slim novel, saying more about the plot would spoil it too much. I found it very unusual in its choice of topic. In a way all of our expectations are turned upside down and we learn to see horrible things form an unexpected angle. I liked the main character Jenny quite a lot. She’s a character who has grown from what has happened to her and who has developed an astonishing capacity for compassion and a genuine ability to do something truly good without asking for anything in return. I found it refreshing that an author attempted to show that horrible circumstances don’t necessarily have to damage a person for life and that he managed to illustrate this without belittling the horrible events that happened in Jenny’s past. The result is a crime novel with an almost Buddhist vibe.

Sallis isn’t your usual crime writer. Not only because his stories are unusual but because of his pared down style. When you pare down sentences and scenes like Sallis, leaving only the most necessary, each and every single of your sentences will have a special power and meaning. Each element is chosen carefully, each scene stripped down to the bare minimum. A lesser writer would achieve something choppy and fragmented, while Sallis reaches another kind of fluidity. 

This book really put me in the mood to read more of him. I want to read The Killer is Dying next but I’m open for other suggestions.