The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer
Genre: Contemporary, Magical Realism
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: ARC e-book
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Inconceivable Life of Quinn is a story about a girl who finds out she’s pregnant and can’t remember having sex. She has a long term boyfriend, and a memory of kissing someone who was very much not her boyfriend, but that’s it. I was really drawn to the book because of the premise. I knew it would take a religious turn, what with the virgin birth thing, but I didn’t know that it would offer a general commentary on the ridiculousness of the media and how they write whatever they like, without sources or a sense of sympathy for those they harm.Told in third person, Quinn is the main character, but there’s also little snippets from other people in her life: her father, her therapist, the woman that thinks she’s Mary re-incarnated that add interesting layers to the story. You get to read about a lot of people’s psychological states, from deathly calm to completely unhinged, which I really enjoyed.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting from this story was the magical realism element. I’m not an expert on magical realism, but this seemed to fit well into the sub-genre. In hindsight, it doesn’t come out of nowhere and if foreshadowed from the very beginning of the book. It opens with a poem extract from a book within the story that talks about the Deeps, and you don’t realise how big a role they play until the end. Quinn and her whole family have secrets that they’re hiding and a tragic past that slowly unravels, until you’re not quite sure what’s real and what isn’t.This is definitely a story that asks you to question who you believe and to what extent.
I’d say the book really took a turn for the better in the second half. The first half is all about Quinn convincing herself that there’s a rational explanation, which doesn’t work, of course, and the second half is about discovery and imagination. The pacing goes from 0 to 60 at the end, leaving you a little confused at what’s going on, but satisfied at the same time.
For a book that I requested on a whim, because the premise sounded different and the cover was pretty, I’m surprised by how much I got out of it. The Inconceivable Life deals with teen pregnancy, faith and family against such in interesting background that I’d highly recommend picking it up. You may get all the answers, and you may get none, but it’s certainly worth a shot.