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Missing the Ark

by Catherine Kidd

Mining the animal kingdom for metaphors for the human condition, this flawed first novel by acclaimed Montreal spoken word artist Catherine Kidd provides a fascinating look into the lives of animals and the craft of taxidermy.

In it, former biology student Agnes Underhill (the book’s narrator) attempts to flee painful memories, family secrets, and her oppressive, philandering, alcoholic mother by shacking up with Noah, a much-older taxidermist whom she nicknames Buffalo Man and with whom she conceives a child before returning home.

Kidd spends much of the book riffing on the fascinating and symbolically ripe craft of taxidermy. Kidd also fills her novel with a seemingly unending list of animal facts. These facts, while intriguing, are so great in number that they bog the story down and drown it out. And not only animal facts: so many things warrant a drawn-out analogy from Agnes that readers are left wondering which are most relevant, and consequently, what the central thrust of the book is.

Some of these problems may be traced back to Kidd’s work as a spoken word artist. Repetition may be effective in a spoken word performance, but its use in print can often result in page after page of single paragraphs that say the same thing four or five different ways. (All heavy-handed, in this case.)

Though marred as well by confusing abstractions and the fact that many significant scenes are either under-dramatized or occur off the page entirely, Missing the Ark is strongest when it achieves clarity – when its descriptions and metaphors enhance the conflict, rather than impede its progress. Unfortunately, these occasions are few and far between.


Reviewer: Melanie Mah

Publisher: Conundrum Press


Price: $20

Page Count: 320 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-894994-21-7

Issue Date: 2007-5

Categories: Fiction: Novels