“Three Years with the Rat” by Jay Hosking
288 pages, Thomas Dunne Books
Expected publication date: Jan. 24, 2017
Originally published Aug. 9, 2016, by Hamish Hamilton (Canada)
A young man’s quest to find his missing sister will catapult him into a dangerous labyrinth of secrets in this provocative, genre-bending, and page-turning debut.
After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now she is a promising graduate student in psychophysics and the centre of a group of friends who take “Little Brother” into their fold, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job.
But it soon becomes clear that things are not well with Grace. Always acerbic, she now veers into sudden rages that are increasingly directed at her adoring boyfriend, John, who is also her fellow researcher. When Grace disappears, and John shortly thereafter, the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. Soon he embarks on a mission to discover the truth, a pursuit that forces him to question time and space itself, and ultimately toward a perilous confrontation at the very limits of imagination.
This kinetic novel catapults the classic noir plot of a woman gone missing into the 21st century city, where so-called reality crashes into speculative science in a novel reminiscent of Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Three Years with the Rat is simultaneously a mind-twisting mystery that plays with the very nature of time and the story of a young man who must face the dangerously destructive forces we all carry within ourselves.
I’m not sure I can adequately review a book like “Three Years with the Rat.” It is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I suspect that someone with a more analytical mind would be able to fully appreciate its message.
Although I’d say about 65 percent of the time I had no idea what was going on, I was able to read this book fairly quickly because of the elements of suspense. It is truly a mind-bending story that challenges the reader’s perception of reality.
My biggest complaint, regardless of my level of comprehension, is how much the story jumps around. I’m sure the author has a good reason for shifting constantly between the years of 2006 through 2008. Did he intend to generate an added layer of confusion? Who knows.
All that being said, the writing was good, the characters were intriguing, and the story moves quickly (once you get about halfway through, however). Science fiction just isn’t my thing, so perhaps a seasoned lover of the genre will get more enjoyment from this book.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
About the author
Jay Hosking obtained his neuroscience Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia,
teaching rats how to gamble and studying the neurobiological basis of choice.
At the same time, he also completed a creative writing M.F.A. His short stories have appeared in The Dalhousie Review and Little Fiction, been long-listed for the CBC Canada Writes short story competition, and received an editor’s special mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology.
He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, where he researches decision-making and the human brain. The author lives in Vancouver, B.C.