ASKED for a very quick synopsis of this most unusual novel, the best I could manage was "absolutely savage". Irish author Guillermo Stitch's strange tale is both a quasi-fantasy work and a biting satire. Despite its unfortunate title, Lake of Urine is absurdly funny, a merciless mockery of all our sacred cows (most especially our cash cows) and it pokes endless fun at our basic human need; to feel important, at least to one person, but preferably to more than one.
I struggled blindly to find a pigeonhole for this novel. Where would it belong in a bookshop where fiction was sub-categorised? I still haven't reached a satisfactory conclusion. It's not strictly fantasy, it's not science-fiction, it's not pure comedy, it's laced with a quite serious underbelly. Descriptions like "truly original" and "genre-bending" seem clumsy, but they're probably accurate.
In a story that takes us from a parochial redneck backwater to the sparkly lights of the Big City, and then back again to pastures green, we follow the fate of the Wakeling sisters, Noranbole and Urine, both of them casualties of their monstrous mother Emma Wakeling, a woman as fond of collecting husbands as Imelda Marcos was of collecting shoes.
The family saga is supported by a cast of lunatics, most notably Seiler, who at the beginning of the novel is Emma Wakeling's most recent love interest.
Early on we learn that Urine Wakeling comes to an unfortunate watery end, the result of an accident while helping Seiler measure the depths of a lake. But does she? And does her sister Noranbole really have the power she seems to wield, up there in her Big City office? The author delights in wrongfooting the reader as the plot shifts shapes (and time) and we reel from one delicious scene to another. If that sounds a little chaotic, then the chaos is strictly in the comedy. The novel itself is as tight as a fist.
An audacious love story as well as all the other things it is, Lake of Urine thumbs its nose at any attempt to describe it coherently, but this is part of its maddening charm. The reader is simply immersed in a series of outrageous pastiches, and, as the drama reaches fever pitch, it is then boiled down to its essence: that so much of the meaning we attach to our lives is meaningless.
Lake of Urine
Sagging Meniscus Press