Remember that one thing that fascinated you when you were a child? Dinosaurs, fairies, angels, princesses? How awesome would it be to seen something like that?
Twenty-two year old single mother Anna Jennings didn’t have a fascination with dinosaurs, but her four year-old son David does. But his powerful imagination envelops his mother in a world where he is friends with two enormous and scary looking dinosaurs, well, let’s just that it took Anna some convincing that, following her recent burn-out, she wasn’t officially out of her mind. But she quickly realises that she has been given a precious (albeit scary) invitation into David’s world. A loving and doting mother worried about her son’ safety, she engages in a process to learn more about this unique and quite bizarre phenomenon. What Anna finds out is of much bigger concern than the claws on David’s prehistoric friends.
In Imaginary Things, Andrea Lochen, award-winning author of The Repeat Year, created a vivid tale bringing to life a family in startling and realistic detail. Each member is fleshed out in such a way that readers will feel connected to them by the end of the story; their psyches are deftly analysed through events and conversations without readers realising what is going on. The characters irritate because we understand them and get frustrated at their decisions, much like we would feel towards a friend. Unsurprisingly, Lochen’s writing can bring insight into our own friendships.
A couple of important concepts were explored through Anna and David’s story. One is the bond between mother and child throughout the generations. Duffy, Anna’s grandmother, has a loving relationship with Anna, but it that can’t make up for the severe limitations of her relationship with her mother, Kimberly. While investigating her experience with David’s imagination, Anna uncovers a dark secret from her past that is both a consequence of and has long defined her relationship with her mother. In a tradition akin to that of Pieces of my Mother by Melissa Cistaro—one that flies in the face of the drama encouraged by reality television—Anna, although traumatized by her own mother’s decisions, draws on her love for David to break the negative pattern of behaviour. It doesn’t take much to understand the importance of this turn of events; if a large number of traumatized children could so the same when they become parents, our communities would look very different in just one or two generations.
Another important concept explored, albeit indirectly, is that of marriage. Having no other place to go, Anna takes David to her grandparent’s home, a place where she has already twice sought refuge. One quickly realises that Anna didn’t just go there because she didn’t have anywhere else to go; Duffy and Winston, her grandparents, have a solid marriage, a fortress that acts like a magnet to those needing to seek refuge in it.
The last concept I will touch upon in this review is that of growing up. The contrast between who Anna was a mere four years ago—a high school senior desperately wanting to graduate and get out of a small, stifling town—and who she is now—happy, feeling quite at home, and content—is intriguing. We’re told, especially when young, to constantly look for something, someone, somewhere better; in other words, we’re encouraged to live in a state of constant discontent. But what if we learned to be content with what we have, who we are with, where we are at? Anna’s situation is worse now than it was four years ago, but she feels happier; why? Is it only because having a child has brought her to a place of appreciation and gratitude? If so, how can we all get there now rather than later? These important questions are only a few that will come to mind while reading Lochen book.
Imaginary Things is beautiful book, a cleverly written story whose touch of “realistic” magic makes it all the more real, turning it into a reflection of sorts on many themes. Anna’s story is unusual, but her struggles are not. Central to it is courage: courage to start over, courage to look into the unknown, courage to be different from the norm. The story might seem slow but page turner with an unexpected climax make it an engaging and satisfying read.
More information about Andrea Lochen can be found on her official website.
Pictures courtesy of Astor + Blue Editions.
Originally published on 27 May 2015 on Sahar’s Blog.