Our identity is an undeniably internal experience, but it is inextricably tied to external evidence. Take that away and you might find yourself in freefall, your story unmoored from your past, allowed to drift without direction into an uncertain future. If you are the you in Vendela Vida’s new novel, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty life opens up to opportunities both antic and intense. You might think that starting your story anew means leaving the past behind. Stories are not, however, so easily discarded.
As the novel opens, our never-named, second-person narrator arrives for a vacation in Casablanca only to have her backpack stolen while she checks into her hotel. She loses everything that confirms her identity and all her money. The police promise her that her backpack will be returned, and they make good on that promise, sort of. She’s handed a backpack that looks like hers and has money and ID, but it is not hers. In a split second, you have a new identity.
Freed from her story, our heroine pursues a path that serves up low-key but very funny slapstick cut with crime fiction and identity roulette. She encounters a famous actress and becomes involved in filming a movie as a double. That’s not the first mirror you’ll find here, nor is it the last. And while Vida writes a stunningly engaging page-turner with lots to make you smile, she seamlessly mines her premise for its mythical and psychological riches. It turns out that you cannot leave the past behind so easily after all.
The real power on display here is Vida’s ability to write a book that encompasses the whole life, from laughter to love to loss. She does so with a grace that is understated by virtue of crisp prose. Vida has created a novel that is laugh-out-loud funny, filled with penetrating philosophical thought and powerful emotions. You’ll read it quickly, and find that it is lodge in your memory, your story. This is the perfect book to read in vacation home or hotel, and leave behind for the next guest.
The second person storytelling in The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty works perfectly with the scenario and characters she’s created to immerse us in story in a manner let readers look in the mirror and see more than one face, more than one possibility. The future, it turns out, is not fixed. You can make a choice. You can write your own evidence.
Here’s a link to the short form interview I did with Vendela Vida, evidence of fleeting words spoken into the air, never to return again. Or you can listen to the interview right here.
Here’s a link to the long form interview I did with Vendela Vida. Or you can listen to the interview right here.