25 January 2024

by Meghan Greeley
Published by Radiant Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$20.00 ISBN 9781998926008

Original. Startling. Candid. Jawbone is a quick-read novella by Newfoundland writer, performer and director Meghan Greeley that encompasses the inherent joy and terror of being alive and being in love. It’s outrageous that a book this polished is the author’s debut title.

I initially wondered what I was getting into. Greeley writes: “I was wired shut, and then a man put his latex fingers in my mouth and cut out the wires with gardening shears”. What? Plotwise, the narrator—a concertina-playing actor—is recuperating in a small cabin (she told the Airbnb owner that she was “looking for the loneliest place in the world”) after an accident left her both physically and emotionally shattered. We know her boyfriend had moved to California months earlier, and his letters are scattered throughout the text. The red-haired costumer designer the actor’d been sharing an apartment with was tantalizingly bizarre, ie: they created a list of tasks that take approximately a minute to complete, like “Microwaving a small portion of leftovers”. And the roommate—she of the “smoothest skin”—is difficult to read. Just friends? More than friends? Then there’s the climactic aquarium incident, among a crowd and before a bloom of jellyfish.

All in all, Planet Earth seems too alien to navigate and the narrator wants “to disappear,” so she decides to apply for a nonprofit-sponsored, never-return trip to Mars, and must create a minute-long video audition. Trouble is, her jaw’s been wired and speaking’s impossible. For now, there’s the cabin, where she learns that “twenty-nine showers” is “the lifespan of a bar of Irish Spring soap if you are rigorous”. For now: memories.

You can’t help but fall at least a little in love with this narrator; she bleeds insecurity, strangeness and desire across every page. Among the things that make her ache: “the smell of wet snow on pines; the last lines of television shows” and “any mention of the beaches of Normandy”. She bought a hat “that made [her] feel more like [herself] than anything ever had before”.

Though the premise sounds “out there,” the story’s completely earthy. The memorable cast is compelling, eccentric and will say (and do) almost anything, often apropos of nothing. The roommates “drank gin and put bras on [their] heads and pretended [they] were dumb men”. They played “Winter” in summer, exhaling smoke from a “half-smoked cigarette” and pretending “that the smoke was [her] breath, frosting in cold air”. Underneath the stream-of-consciousness reveries, remembered conversations, and the actor’s eclectic confessions (“My teeth felt different in California;” she “concoct[s] email passwords from the things of which [she is] most deeply ashamed”) lies a credible story of simmering attraction. Readers, you’ll feel it, too.

Looking to kick 2024 off with a fabulous read? Jawbone is a book for anyone who has ever “wanted something, something, something else”. Finally, the cover is another example of how Radiant Press is producing the most gorgeous books out there. It shimmers. And much like the text within it, it’s positively radiant.


No Comments

Comments are closed.