Lisa Moore has pulled from the headlines to create fiction before, and this is not the first time she has pulled readers into painful territory by the heart.
“I learned to graft bits and pieces of true-life experiences together to form fiction. I learned not to worry about what the story meant, to trust the reader to create the meaning.”*
In her short stories, she has offered a view of the world that careens between the random and the deliberate; she studied the intersection between relationships and conspiracies.
In Alligator, she considered the relationship between stillness and chaos; she questioned the distinction between regret and remorse, and she debated the likelihood of forgiveness and atonement.
In her fiction, moments of beauty nestle up alongside painful bits, and all of this is true, too, of Caught.
And Lisa Moore takes readers as deeply into the heart of David Slaney as she has drawn readers into other hearts, through and between the lines of her fiction.
But Slaney differs in that he has been imprisoned for having committed a crime and, when readers meet him on the page, he has escaped.
So, on one level, Caught is a romp of a read.
It chronicles a great escape: “The rebelliousness of it. The radicalness of the act. The audacity.”*
And it features a likeable hero: “I think he’s humble. I think he is passionate, has a sense of humour and is brave. Yeah, he’s a hero, I think,” she says. “And he forgives.”*
On another level, Caught is meticulously crafted.
This is evident in the sensory detail. “Her black crocheted shawl was smeared over her with static electricity.”
It is also evident in word choice and assembly. “Patterson gave the wipers a single sweep and the slurring world was put straight.”
But from a broader perspective, there is a complexity to the structure and thematic development that is sculpted with great care.
There is, for instance, a series of images scattered across the prose, which might seem accidental and unrelated (just as some of the events in the stories Lisa Moore tells) but are deliberately and skillfully arranged.
In the beginning, readers have this:
“The night of his escape would come back to him moments of lit intensity, for the rest of his life. He saw himself on that hill in the brilliant spot of the swinging searchlight, the orange of his back as it might have appeared to the guards in the watchtower, had they might glanced that way.”
And the light does follow Slaney, if not for the rest of his life (for readers can’t truly know this: the narrative considers only one portion of it) then certainly for the rest of this novel.
The light follows him and it leads him, and readers can trace the glimmers and pools of light through the prose. The reader’s attention needn’t settled firmly on each instance, but s/he comes to quietly associate these moments of illumination with Slaney.
Consider the series of quotes pulled from throughout the novel, the degree of attention paid to each sentence of a work to allow these details to accumulate steadily and deliberately.
“Slaney stood on the highway and the stillness of the moonlit night settled over him.”
“They were lit up, Slaney thought. Her mouth cold from the ice she had chewed. It felt like her tongue had been dipped in florescent light. He had that impression.”
“He flicked a light switch and the window flared with thousands of tiny white lights inside the stars decorating the back walls.”
“The flashlight beam bounced and jiggled over rocks and tree roots and then the swaying beam found a girl with shiny black hair tumbling down one shoulder. She was sitting on a wooden chair, her knees apart, her boots planted firmly. She was plucking a chicken and she had a kerosene lantern that lit her like a painting by Rembrandt, golden and shadowed.”
“Out on the cobblestones, a hen was testing the pool of light under the street lamp, touching it once and then again with its claw, jerking the inert lump of its blazing white body forward by the neck taking teensy steps. The hen froze in the center of the light, full of trembling.”
“Big white spots spangled out blue auras and they were blinded. Slaney had a glowing orb hanging in the center of whatever he looked at, and in the periphery the water sparkled with moonlight and the cliffs rose up to the sky.”
It is difficult to discuss this novel without revealing plot elements, and it is difficult to display the subtle innerworkings of the author’s crafting.
It is easy, however, to praise Caught. For story, for structure: Lisa Moore’s novel is truly outstanding.
Dennis E. Bolen’s Black Liquor: Poems (2013)
Kenneth J. Harvey’s Inside (2006)
Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (2012)
*These quotes are from Mike Landry’s Red-Handed:Busting the Real Story of Lisa Moore’s Caught, originally published as “State of love and trust” in the Telegraph-Journal 2013, now available via Anansi Digital 2013