Excerpt from Those Who Knew by Idra Novey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Those Who Knew

A Novel

by Idra Novey

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey X
Those Who Knew by Idra Novey
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2018, 256 pages

    Nov 2019, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

In the aging port city
of an island nation
near the start of the new millennium

Precisely a week after the death of Maria P. was declared an accident, a woman reached into her tote bag and found a sweater inside that didn't belong to her. Standing at the register in the supermarket, she had reached in for her wallet, which was there, as were her keys and the bundled up green bulk of her scarf.

Only now there was also this worn black sweater. I don't remember walking away from my cart, she told the cashier, but I must have, and somebody stuck this in my bag by accident.

She held the sweater up over the register and saw that a white zigzag ran across the front like the pulse line on a heart monitor. The broadness of the neckline brought to mind a sweater she'd worn in college. She'd worn it constantly until she lost it at the last protest before the election that finally brought Cato down. She'd liked the open feeling of the sweater's neckline, though it was always shifting and, like her confidence then, had required continual adjustment.

You could just keep it, the cashier said.

No, no-it isn't mine. She handed off the sweater, and while the cashier balled it up once more, she inserted her credit card to pay for the eggs and oil she'd come for and the tin of lemon shortbread she hadn't.

Ten minutes later, outside her first-floor rental on a steep curve of the port city's longest road, she reached into her bag again for her keys. And, standing in front of her door, felt everything plummet inside her as if she'd just stepped into the empty shaft of an elevator.

It was back, bunched up again inside her bag. The same worn black cotton and white pulse line. The same eerily familiar open neck. She was certain she'd handed it off to the cashier.

And then, perhaps because she had once risked her life in a similar garment and still regarded that time as the pivotal aspect of who she was, she lifted the sweater over her head and pulled it on.

Olga was sweeping stray bits of marijuana leaves off the floor of her bookstore when her friend Lena called, panicking about something having to do with a sweater. Hold on, Olga said into her cordless phone, I can't hear you. I'm back in Poetry. Her reception was far better up in Conspiracy, near the front windows. She could hear clearly enough at the register, too, where she rang up the occasional book-and, yes, also sold a formidable amount of weed.

Of course, I know it doesn't make sense, Lena said with the declarative tone common to her generation. I opened my tote bag and it was back, which I know is impossible, but here it is.

I think you're reading too much Saramago, Olga said as she pushed open the front door and stepped outside. What you need to do is sit down with a cup of tea and read someone who doesn't stray so much from reality, someone like-

It's hers, Lena interrupted. I knew something about the sweater was familiar. I just looked up Maria P.'s obituary. She has it on in the photo. Or, no, maybe it's more of a check mark on her sweater, but still.

On whose sweater?

In front of the store now, Olga bent down despite the stiff protest of her knees to remove an empty bag of potato chips someone had tossed in her tulips. She didn't see why, just because she used a claw-footed bathtub for a flower bed, she should be subjected to more trash than anyone else on the hill.

Today, however, there was rampant rubbish for everyone. A scattering of run-over cabbage leaves had formed a grimy pattern across the width of the street. In her exile years, Olga had missed what the love of her life had called the accidental garbage art up this high in the hills above the port, where the city rarely sent anyone to clean the streets. Along the opposite curb, someone had tossed what looked like a full carton of milk, the splattered liquid now trickling gritty and increasingly gray down the hill, forming rather lovely squares around the cobblestones.

Excerpted from Those Who Knew by Idra Novey. Copyright © 2018 by Idra Novey. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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