“When you believe in things you don’t understand you suffer”
Stevie Wonder’s words serve as the epitaph to Victor LaValle’s The Changeling; accurately summing up the ensuing 431 pages wherein we’re introduced to a genre-defying novel that mixes horror with the fantastic and monsters both real and imagined come a-knocking.
However, before we get to the things we don’t understand — the darkly fantastical, fairy tale element of The Changeling — we’re given a family saga, and herein lies the beauty of LaValle’s novel: We’re essentially given two novels in one, the first half being almost exclusively an introduction to the Kagwa family, before LaValle rips everything we’ve come to care about in the novel away and presents us with something entirely new. In this, the novel itself presents as a changeling. Does this approach work? Resoundingly so, but then again I guess fairy tales have been concerned with family dynamics for as long as they’ve been told, and work beautifully as a framing device for our modern family drama.