A Montreal-based writer and artist, Alisha Piercy has described the thematic preoccupation of her oeuvre as “the tension between exile and freedom as it plays out in a diversity of islanded experiences.” Her debut novel certainly fits this description. This short, experimental work is inventive and unconventional, eschewing plausibility and realism in favour of imaginative abandon.
A middle-aged former Playboy bunny is exiled from her peers when her wealthy lover tosses her from his luxury yacht and entices a bloodthirsty shark to bite off her foot. As Bunny floats underwater in the wake of the shark attack, the narrator warns, “the sea and salt will rub away who you are.”
Early in the narrative, Piercy asks, “What’s needed to kill one woman?” A sort of meditation on interiority and mortality, Bunny and Shark is thematically concerned with the relationship between conscious identity and the ache and swell of the human body under duress. The writing is sculpted and confident, despite the occasional kooky flourish: “You picture the wad of clothes you arrived in slowly sinking to the bottom of the ocean. They hit the plankton soundlessly.” A preponderance of adverbs is occasionally distracting.
Piercy employs the second-person voice and unconventional sentence structures to disorienting effect, mimicking the unsettling journey of her protagonist: “As your limbs fall numb. The shark’s fins and tails lash about a front line that arcs wide to encircle you.” Her descriptions of Bunny floating in the sea are at once terse and sensual: “Cocksure, radiating filth. Tobacco on your nostril out-breaths.”
Is this story one big hallucination? Is our heroine living or dead? A ghost? The author never tells. In Bunny, Piercy has created a character intriguing enough that a reader is willing to suspend disbelief. Experiencing this book’s lyrical prose and peculiar, violent plot is like swimming in the ocean: it feels both soothing and risky at the same time.