My rating: 3 of 5 stars
An unsettling, deceptively simple story about an unnamed narrator’s return to her childhood home in the Canadian woods and her growing desire to disappear into wildness, a desire which ultimately claims her or, more accurately, a desire she ultimately claims. Driven by a simple plot, my enjoyment of this novel came mostly from Atwood’s ability to slowly layer the tension and render the familiar unfamiliar. The narrator yearns to escape the sexual politics and unfulfilling materialism that is her everyday life. The traumas of her young life only gradually rise to the surface. The punch of this novel comes late as the narrator makes her final brutal decision and embraces the awful logic her own wildness brings.
Written in first person present tense, revelations arrive with almost hallucinatory grace. Surfacing is Atwood’s second published novel. It is very much an early novel written by an accomplished poet. A simple, spare frame draped with the fresh, succinct perception only powerful, honest poetry can provide. I recommend Surfacing for those already familiar with and curious about Atwood’s artistic gifts, but I would not recommend Surfacing as an introduction to Atwood’s work.