“Separation Anxiety,” by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press. 320 pages. Hardcover $26.99, trade paperback $16.99.
Many writers of high repute have applauded Michael Lister’s giant talent and unique vision. And yet, he perseveres in relative obscurity, never embraced by a major publishing house that could help him reach the wide audience he deserves. His John Jordan Mystery series is a treasure of contemporary literature. His books outside of this landmark series are equally suspenseful, provocative, and unsettling. Mr. Lister’s work always has a spiritual dimension, and in “Separation Anxiety” the spiritual realm becomes dominant.
The plot of “Separation Anxiety” is populated by twins: biological and spiritual. The central character, in this story that involves many major characters, is Taylor Sean. Taylor, thirty-two, is a prominent artist who lives with her teenage daughter Shelby in a Lithonia Lodge, an eery old house in the Florida Panhandle town of Tupelo. This region is Mr. Lister’s home territory, and he knows it inside out.
Taylor is a conjoined twin, her identical sister – Trevor – having died in separation surgery (they had been joined at the lower abdomen) so that Taylor might live. Not only does she carry the internal and external scars of this surgery, she has transformed the outer scars into living art.
Taylor, always tortured by survivor guilt, has regained a tenuous stability in the long, chaotic aftermath of that loss as well of the loss of Shelby’s twin sister, Savannah. Taylor’s emotional repair is largely due to the loving care of Marc, her novelist soulmate and thus a kind of psychic twin.
Now, as a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico aims right at Tupelo, young Shelby disappears – a remarkable recurrence of Savannah’s disappearance some eight years back. The search for Shelby races against the timetable of the approaching storm and, perhaps, the intentions of an abductor. It’s possible, however, that Shelby has simply left on her own or run away with her boyfriend, Julian. . . .