Review of Marrow, by Tarryn Fisher


It was delightful to discover that Margo is a Swiftie, but Tarryn Fisher doesn’t tell us which of Taylor’s songs is her favorite. Often I thought it ought to have been “Mean”: “Someday I’ll be living in a big ole city”—Seattle, actually—“an’ all you’re ever gonna be is . . .” dead! Too seldom maybe “Safe & Sound” but “I Know Places” could be perfect for this girl on the run from a depressed & depressing dump of a coastal town in the Pacific Northwest called Bone Harbor, where Margo’s mother sells herself for $100 a pop. We 1st encounter Margo when she is 13; by the end of Marrow she’s a 20-something who has left a trail of mayhem from Washington State to Florida. She is a most welcome new recruit to the elite squadron of young avenging kick-ass chicks: Alex in The Female of the Species, Lacey of Girls on Fire, Candice Fox’s Eden, & Tuesday of Tuesday Falling. Tuesday is probably the most comparable, especially when dispatching slime-balls who badly need killing, tho’ Margo’s a lot like Alex in taking care of business up close & personal. But as with Tuesday Falling, in Marrow the ultra-violence goes so OTT as not to gross out any but the more squeamish reader. With Tuesday it’s comic-book hero stuff, Margo’s is phantasmagoric. Long before she gets her psych evaluation (really!), you may start suspecting you’re in the hands of an unreliable narrator. So watch out!

As with Tuesday, I suspect we want to stand up & cheer for Margo because we feel society hasn’t lived up to its implied bargain with us. We give up our right to defend ourselves & to exact retribution to the state in exchange for protection against killers, rapists & thieves, protection the state fails to provide. Margo frequently questions herself, fearful that she has morphed into a murderer & monster. When I was her age, I might have been similarly confused between the demands of legality, morality, & spirituality. But she (& if I’m reading her right Dr. Elgin her psychiatrist) has an inkling of what is actually happening with her. What in the 18th century would have been called her “moral sense” takes possession of Margo, so she has no choice but to act & to exact retribution, especially from those who prey on & abuse the weak, innocent & helpless. Personally I’d go with Greek tragedy. As Margo develops as a revenger a terrible daimon emerges, an Alastor or Erinys ultimately merging with Margo’s essence. Like in Greek tragedy, the daimon has a literal local habitation, appropriately termed “the eating house”!

If you know an on-line book club doing a group read of Marrow, do let me know. I’d so love to discuss it with others, & I doubt that any two readers will completely agree about what is going on with Margo, Margo’s state of mind, the other characters & even their status. What is supposed to be real & what is imaginary? This is a story that will challenge you on every level—literal, political, psychological, moral, symbolic & whatever you think of Margo (& frankly I thought she’s to die for), you’ll not forget her.

Oh, & maybe Taylor Swift & Ellie Goulding singing “Burn”!

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