Face: A Novel of the Anthropocene by Jaspreet Singh

This novel has a lot going on. It’s a literary story with supporting details from science that also incorporates climate change and scandalous relationships plus ghosts and it’s a true crime-turned thriller all in one.

We’re introduced to Lila, a science journalist in Canada who was originally a geologist born in India. She wants to write a crime novel based on a true story she experienced and in order to do so, she’s taking a fiction writing workshop where she stares at the face of someone for over eight minutes.
Lila meeting this woman, Lucia, and becoming her friend kick starts an interesting mixture of good and bad events for both.

“This novel delivers one-two gut punches with disturbing regularity”

The story is told mainly through a haphazard mixture of past, present, stream of conscious thought, and sometimes chronological order. I don’t want to reveal too much, because it all ties together in what seems inexplicable ways.

This novel delivers one-two gut punches with disturbing regularity, leaving a certain tenseness of unease in the pit of your belly. If it isn’t the casual deliverance of the disturbing line of only one woman surviving from the pair in the writing workshop, it’s the detail to which the main character describes a mentally ill homeless person sitting at a train system. Include the gently wistful details of scrubbing a kitchen sink or the depth of thought that went into describing the character Lucia’s facial features and movements and you’re sure to be off balance.

There are certainly many anecdotes of climate change and the science behind why our planet is dying (and it’s all our fault). I would say what really makes this book deserve its title as “A Novel of the Anthropocene” is that it’s based in the right now. Anthropocene is termed as when human activity began to have a significant impact on the earth and we’re living in that now.

Terming the novel from the beginning in this way gives the impression that science and climate change will form a heavier part of the story but the science is like an object getting passed around from character to character. It’s always there, the characters discuss it, but the biggest part of the novel to note is the interplay between characters and the stories which happen when one passes the object on to the next. Someone unexpected is found in a hotel room, there is a book that incites a specific memory.

What I mainly took away from this story was a sense of unease. It was refreshing but also disturbing how new it is for an author to include climate change as an accepted fact in a story involving relationships. I wasn’t sure if the way the book was written was effective for what the author was trying to communicate until I really sat with it. This is not a happy story. The unease and constant upheaval are integral to the story and when you have to set a book down every once in a while to take a breath and think, it’s doing what was intended.

About the Author

Jaspreet Singh’s short pieces have appeared in Granta, Brick, Walrus, Zoetrope, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and the New York Times. He is the author of the novels Helium, Chef, and Face; the story collection Seventeen Tomatoes; the poetry collections November and How to Hold a Pebble; and the memoir My Mother, My Translator. He lives in Calgary, the traditional territory and home to the diverse Indigenous peoples such as: Niitsitapi, Siksika, Kainai, Piikuni, Tsuut’ina, Métis, Îyâxe Nakoda. You can find him online at jaspreetsinghauthor.com

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ TouchWood Editions (May 3 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1927366976
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1927366974

Stephanie Sirois (they/them) is a writer, artist and journalist on unceded Wolastoqiyik territory. They spend their time reading, writing, making art and exhorting their family into playing board games with them.