“But even one letter changes a meaning entirely.” With delicately biting prose, Kathleen Alcott’s first novel is anything but rookie material. It is a love story, but by no means a simple one. Ida meets Jackson and James in childhood, and experiences an instant bond. The three form a family unit outside of their broken homes, and soon love grows hurriedly and silently, with an innate intimacy. The most startlingly beautiful passages are in Alcott’s dreamlike presentation of childhood experiences, from reflections of glowing ceiling stars to trading Halloween candy. But when Jackson becomes a troubled, sleepwalking artist and Ida can’t save him, it’s what adulthood does to love that becomes the fulcrum of this short novel. An exploration of the redemptive and destructive qualities of art, how we communicate without words and the arbitrary definition of “family,” The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets
is an overlooked gem.