The Skunks

Fiona Warnick's debut, The Skunks, is a tender coming-of-age story about a college graduate's return to her sometimes stifling, sometimes comforting hometown. Speared with honest yet generous insights into summer-after-college dilemmas and angst, Warnick's novel captures the tender nostalgia of time spent in the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood.

Isabel can't help but feel a little stuck. Like the baby skunks she recently discovered residing in her backyard, Isabel isn't sure this is the right place for her, but she's still too tied to her youth to know where, exactly, to go next. She gets a series of jobs working at a yoga studio, babysitting, and house-sitting. She's determined to, as her childhood friend Ellie puts it, find a "healthy new direction."

However, Isabel begins to find that life in her hometown does not necessarily mean being stuck. Warnick's patient prose plumbs the depths of Isabel's emotional life while often skimming over the surface of her daily routines. These quotidian details, far from boring, are precise and measured, located in that achingly nostalgic time when people find themselves on the brink of adulthood, but still longing in some elusive ways for the past. Still, it isn't until Isabel's imaginative sections about the lives of the skunks who live alongside her that her conflicting inner desires are laid bare. These gentle meditations on the natural world go beyond a simple metaphor for Isabel's questions of desire and ambition, stagnation and change, however. They probe what it means--what is gained and lost, seen differently or even just seen for the first time--when one remains, for a time, still. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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