Drowning Girl is a fictional memoir of madness, haunting and loss written by Caitlín R. Kiernan. The novel was published in 2012 by Roc Books (an imprint of Penguin). It was nominated the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. It won the Tiptree Award and the Bram Stoker Award.
As you might suspect from all those award nominations, the novel is really damned good. To
paraphrase the narrator, India “Imp” Morgan Phelps, the book isn't factual, but it’s true.
One of the many things that struck
me about this novel is its structure. At first, poor mad Imp’s story seems
random, disjointed like her memory and mind. But then I came to realize that
the narrative is very carefully constructed. Painstaking is the adjective that springs to mind. The structure of
individual pages reflects the narrator’s obsessive mindset; sentences and
paragraphs move in circles and spirals:
realize I was also insane, and that I’d probably always been insane, until a
couple of years after Rosemary died. It’s a myth that crazy people don’t know
they’re crazy. Many of us are surely as capable of epiphany and introspection
as anyone else, maybe more so. I suspect we spend far more time thinking about
our thoughts than do sane people. Still, it simply hadn’t occurred to me, that
the way I saw the world meant that I had inherited “the Phelps Family Curse”
(to quote my Aunt Elaine, who has a penchant for melodramatic turns of phrase).
Anyway, when it finally occurred to me that I wasn’t sane, I went to see a
therapist at Rhode Island Hospital. I paid her a lot of money, and we talked
(mostly I talked while she listened), and the hospital did some tests. When all
was said and done, the psychiatrist told me I suffered from disorganized
schizophrenia, which is also called hebephrenia, for Hēbē, the Greek goddess of