Kindra Austin’s For You, Rowena uncovers a mystery about love and relationships, and how loss can come back to haunt you.
Given a choice of literary genres, mystery is never my first to pick up. Perhaps it is the constant and nagging question in the back of my mind: “How did the author create such a puzzle that I can’t immediately solve?” The details, perfectly interlocking, lead to an ending that is usually satisfying, but leaves me somehow disappointed with my own inability to catch the culprit before the final chapter, or worse, obsessing about tiny clues in an attempt to solve the crime. For You, Rowena was a different type of mystery for me: I didn’t wonder so much at the intricacies of how a crime was planned or carried out; Kindra Austin set the scene and created characters so fascinating and sympathetic that the only question in my mind was “How did it come to this, and how will it end?” This book goes beyond the machinations of an interesting mystery; it is a stirring exploration of human behavior.
Austin excels at character development through the course of the novella; the titular character, her lovers, and supporting players change very believably, very humanly. This is especially true of Rowena. I found her completely unlikeable from first mention; yet as I learned more about her, I grew to understand her attitude of seeming detachment and aloofness, to look beyond the words coming from her mouth and see the revelation of her true character through the actions she takes.
Mara, Lucas and Adrian, Rowena’s friends and lovers, are equally fascinating and surprising in their strange love for a woman whose idiosyncrasies and (at times) warring attitudes simultaneously repel and attract them. Caught in the gravity of Rowena’s sun, their orbits are elliptical, closer and farther at times, but always revolving around her. At times, I wished I could enter into the intrigue myself—to step for a moment into Mara’s slippers, or perhaps be a fly on the wall. Either way, I was equally pulled into Rowena’s circle.
To delve deeper into the novella for this review would require revealing the storyline and its marvelous twists and turns, so I will refrain from spoiling your read. Austin’s novella, much like her poetry, is full of the imagery of smoky rooms and cocktail kisses, dark evenings and secretive places. The story of crime was artfully entwined with emotional and romantic loss that touched the deeper spaces of my heart. Ultimately it left me with a buzz of satisfaction, and the surprise that my detective intuition was not far off.
Mariah Voutilainen, co-editor at Indie Blu(e), writes poetry and prose about all manner of things at www.reimaginingthemundane.wordpress.com.