In the vein of The Pisces and The Vegetarian, Chlorine is a debut novel that blurs the line between a literary coming-of-age narrative and a dark unsettling horror tale, told from an adult perspective on the trials and tribulations of growing up in a society that puts pressure on young women and their bodies… a powerful, relevant novel of immigration, sapphic longing, and fierce, defiant becoming.
Ren Yu is a swimmer. Her daily life starts and ends with the pool. Her teammates are her only friends. Her coach, her guiding light. If she swims well enough, she will be scouted, get a scholarship, go to a good school. Her parents will love her. Her coach will be kind to her. She will have a good life.
But these are human concerns. These are the concerns of those confined to land, those with legs. Ren grew up on stories of creatures of the deep, of the oceans and the rivers. Ones that called sailors to their doom. Ones that dragged them down and drowned them. Ones that feasted on their flesh. Ones of the creature that she’s always longed to become: mermaid.
Ren aches to be in the water. She dreams of the scent of chlorine–the feel of it on her skin. And she will do anything she can to make a life for herself where she can be free. No matter the pain. No matter what anyone else thinks. No matter how much blood she has to spill.
Bad Fruit explored the dysfunctional (and abusive) relationship between Lily and her mother. What seemed like a relationship with an overbearing parent during the first few pages of the book, soon turned more sinister as we delved into the book further.
The characterisation of Lily’s mother was skilfully done. The reader could feel a full range of emotions while grasping the manipulative and downright almost ‘evil’ nature of her mother. While her own skeletons remained in the closet for the most part, her mother did not refrain from using her words and manipulation to the maximum effect, yielding disturbing results. It was quite unsettling as a reader, which only commends King’s skill as a writer.
The author also quite perfectly captured the essence of both Lily and her mother through the means of flashbacks and memories. What came as a surprise to the reader however, was the blurred line between the two (it’s difficult to explain without spoiling ;)). While the book certainly focused on this dysfunctional relationship, it wasn’t done without keeping nuance in mind.
Throughout the novel King tried to explore the cyclical nature of abuse and the exploration of isolation within families— even siblings due to this divide.
However commendable her writing, some parts, personally felt flat. The hallucinations and flashbacks became repetitive, with predictable outcomes. The author tried to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ yet some parts felt as if they were being explained to the reader which contrasted with the otherwise beautiful writing in the text.
Aside from a few discrepancies here and there, the novel put out a critical message, allowing the reader to explore the topic of dysfunctional families and relationships through this novel. It is also important to note, the usage of ‘bad fruit’ or rotten fruit in the novel was spectacular.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed.