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Soulmate
By Kimberly Buteau
Review by: Zénó Vernyik

  1/1/04

ISBN: 1591296242

Kimberly Buteau’s Soulmate is a well-structured work showing discipline and flawless design. It seems to be the result of hard work and hundreds if not thousands of working hours in its perfect patterning, and how it handles even the smallest details. No superfluous or incoherent parts, no lousy story line. Everything is perfectly in order, from macro level down to the smallest and least important-looking parts. This text really deserves an A for the crafts(wo)manship.

The most important part of the structural organization of this text is its title: Soulmate. With this word, the narrative begins in the Peter Brooksian sense, with a beginning that presupposes the end. It points to the ending. In a way, it tells us what is to happen. It tells us that someone in this novel is a Soulmate. Beware! I did not write that someone in this novel has a soul mate. The difference between Soulmate and soul mate explicitly refer to this point. This wording is similar to what one can see in [anyone lived in a pretty how town] by E. E. Cummings when the text has “noone” instead of “no one,” in order to make the reader aware of the special status of this word and to show its difference underneath its seeming identicalness. Writing the expression in one word signals in the poem that “noone” is a proper name, as well as a pronoun. The same strategy is followed by Jacques Derrida, in his essay entitled “Différance,” right in the act of creating “différance” out of “différence.” He came up with a “word” that is the same and at the same time thoroughly different, with a name for différance which is différance in itself. And that is exactly what this title does. Through being différant, being a homograph or a punctum caecum, this title grasps the reader’s attention and shows its other meaning, namely that this novel is about someone who is a Soulmate, someone who has two souls in her body.

What we get is a reworking of the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde story, a case of having two distinct personalities in one body. The first several pages present us with a mass murderer, who kills in the style of Jack the Ripper. Therefore, the scrutinizing and aware reader is able to construct basically the whole story out this small amount of information, just as Peter Brooks theorized it. This novel is but a blend of the story of Jack the Ripper with the theme known from Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. All the more likely as the name Jeckyll already contains the words Jack and Kill, even if only in its pronounced form.

And that shows the weakest point of the story. However perfectly structured and well carried out as a mixture of the good old genre of the whodunit with the psycho-thriller, it lacks real originality and creative talent. Blending the two stories is a fabulous, even congenial idea, but not the slightest bit more. Together with the mentioned flawless cratfs(wo)manship, it is good for fitting into the category of a slightly-beyond-average crime fiction, but sadly, only for that. It is quite an achievement for a first novel, though.


Bibliography

Buteau, Kimberly. Soulmate. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2002.
Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Cummings, E. E. “[anyone lived in a pretty how town].” In George James Firmage ed. Complete Poems, 1904-1962. New York: Liveright, 1994. 516

 




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