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Miss Subways

Review

Miss Subways

David Duchovny’s MISS SUBWAYS owes much to the Irish myth of Emer and Cuchulain. Lucky for me, I went in completely unacquainted with both Duchovny and the Celtic stories he adapted to fit his authorial needs. But what’s so lucky about that? I’ll put it this way: it allowed me to read without the sort of bias I might have had if a more familiar author had written about a more familiar mythology. This won’t be the case for everyone, but it doesn’t make this book anything less than an absolute joy, either. No matter what level of familiarity you have with Duchovny’s work or Irish folklore, I expect that I won’t be the only one to delve further into both after reaching the back cover.

"Duchovny weaves a brilliant, complex and fun tale. Because there’s so much in store, it’s easy for just about anyone to board the Duchovny train, take a seat next to Emer, and have the ride of their life."

MISS SUBWAYS balances a lot in little more than 300 pages, and Duchovny maintains that balance with a steady hand. Fantasy elements come into play, but an authentically rendered New York City serves as the setting and keeps things grounded; moments comic and dramatic mingle with one another, yet neither ever takes precedence. At the center of it all is Emer Gunnels, a teacher-tutor from the Lower East Side whose meandering mind drives the narrative. Though outwardly suppressed by a normal life, Emer’s inward self buzzes with activity, her free associations and imaginings never ceasing to delight. Much as she rides the subway throughout the book, the reader rides her train of thought, never wanting to stop at any one station for too long because of what might await at the next. This fast pace that Duchovny vicariously sets through Emer is riveting from start to finish, and funnily enough encourages a slower examination of everything that’s really there.

And indeed, MISS SUBWAYS is a slick --- if not always subtle (though that is by no means a bad thing) --- commentary on a number of issues, from the modern education system to the modern woman. To say the least, this is not a book for the sensitive reader; Duchovny does not shy away from any subject matter he tackles, instead using old myths to relay new truths. “‘[W]hat if,’” Emer poses to Con (Cuchulain’s modern equivalent), “‘you haven’t challenged yourself in this life because you’ve been made comfortable, your mind has been lulled to sleep?’” It’s questions like these that follow the characters as well as the reader, ensuring that the story isn’t so throwaway as it may appear in its lighter moments. Love, the blurred lines between dream and reality, and the power of good ideas are placed beneath the microscope from the very first page to the very last.

Between Emer’s highly enjoyable story and the clever-yet-wise way Duchovny tells it, I had few complaints about MISS SUBWAYS. The only one worth mentioning is the way the ending is done. Without spoiling anything, the fantasy portion of Emer’s journey is kept relatively light until the last 30 to 40 pages, and the sudden change, while well written, comes across as ham-fisted in a way. One could say it fits a book that is as erratic as it is entertaining, and all that happens in the final act has a basis in what is previously established. I myself am a long-time fantasy fan, but even to me it felt misplaced. Had Emer encountered something equally as extraordinary earlier on, rather than the relatively underplayed fantastical elements that develop, the ending may have worked better.

Aside from the too-much, too-soon third act, Duchovny weaves a brilliant, complex and fun tale. Because there’s so much in store, it’s easy for just about anyone to board the Duchovny train, take a seat next to Emer, and have the ride of their life.

Reviewed by Benny Regalbuto on May 11, 2018

Miss Subways
by David Duchovny

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • ISBN-10: 0374210403
  • ISBN-13: 9780374210403