Jesse Green, the young narrator of the first novella, wants to escape the developed world (Vancouver) and with her boyfriend takes a meandering trip down to Panama, the land bridge to South America. The central short story has an ambiguous setting and period, and is about the loss of a child. Charles Darwin, hero of the closing novella, whose historical namesake found his life work’s inspiration in South America, finds his inspiration in studying village life. The collection takes its visual form (novella-story-novella) from the shape of the Americas, North and South, and its psychological trajectory is from the present “daylight” world to the collective unconscious or archetypal. Carl Jung looms in the background and a fictionalized Charles Darwin dominates proceedings.
The collection’s obsessions are Darwinian diversity read into human inner life; what happens when diversity is lost to homogeneity? That is, what happens when we do not accept parts of ourselves; what happens when genre and classification engulf “freedom” and spirit. New storytelling requires diversity within mind underwritten by the implicit paradoxes of the unconscious. These characters’ journeys are as much into the psyche as into the world. Kenyon’s people often find outer form in their lives through inner exploration and vice versa. This book is full of expressions of escape and commitment, knowledge and acts, introversion and extroversion, feminine and masculine.