STARRED REVIEW
January 05, 2015

A community mourns after loss

By Scott Blackwood

Scott Blackwood’s latest addition to the Texas literary canon, See How Small, is a brilliant, heartbreaking meditation on grief, parenthood and time.

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Scott Blackwood’s latest addition to the Texas literary canon, See How Small, is a brilliant, heartbreaking meditation on grief, parenthood and time.

The history of Austin, Texas contains enough violence to rival the Old Testament, from the Servant Girl Annihilator of the 1880s to the UT Tower sniper in 1966. But Blackwood’s visceral new novel was inspired by a more recent tragedy: The 1991 Austin yogurt shop murders, which remain a cold case to this day.

“Before the men with guns bound and gagged us with our own bras and panties right after closing time, a few things happened: one of us hid inside her mouth the opal class ring her boyfriend had given her. . . . The youngest of us, who always threw up before gym class because she was afraid of being naked, realized that this time she wouldn’t.”

After their deaths, Elizabeth, Zadie and Meredith watch the town try to move on and visit the thoughts of people they knew in life. Kate Ulrich, mother of the first two girls, asks, “How do you start over with the future gouged out?” Jack Dewey, the fireman who discovered their bodies, speaks to the girls in his dreams, where they continue to age. Rosa Heller, a reporter for the Austin Chronicle, works for years to piece together the mystery. And Hollis Finger, a veteran whose head injury makes it impossible for him to keep track of linear time, may be the only witness who can identify either of the murderers. 

Like Blackwood’s first novel, We Agreed to Meet Just Here, See How Small is grounded by piercing details and a palpable sense of place. Comparisons to The Lovely Bones are inevitable, but Blackwood’s layered work is vastly more adult in scope, tone and execution, and has more in common with Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (minus the dinosaurs). This novel is surreal, emotional and nuanced.

RELATED CONTENT: Read Scott Blackwood's behind-the-book essay about See How Small.

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See How Small

See How Small

By Scott Blackwood
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316373807

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