Percussion, by Jay Verney

It’s like my Aunt Ruby – the day she died, she said goodbye to her husband, Arthur, got into bed, made a few calls saying nice things to nieces and nephews . . .talked to Mama, that’s her sister, who was just beside herself because she lived too far away to get there on time. She made herself comfortable . . .and off she went that afternoon about five.

This death, described by one of the minor characters in Percussion is not a key part of the book, but it does speak of the central focus of the book – on death and dying. Whilst some of the death is metaphorical – the death of a marriage, for example – one of the central characters dies a violent death. Despite the focus on death, this is not a dark and depressing novel, for like Aunt Ruby’s passing, death is not always traumatic and it can mark the beginning of recovery.

Penier Bay (the locals call it Pineappale Bay) is a town which seems in need of recovery. It is a town of conflict, of alcoholics and of oppressive heat. Tension bubbles beneath the surface incessantly. Yet perhaps Pineapple is more real than the places Anna Maher visits with her mother Maggie and grandmother Veronica in the United States. There they attend a veterans’ reunion and watch Veronica’s elderly friends avoiding the inevitability of death. Maggie, suggests that in Pineapple Bay living and dying were far cheaper achievements and… funerals were certainly nothing like the rituals of show-and-tell engaged in by the American death industry.

The action of the novel switches between Pineapple Bay and the United States, and also switches from past to present so that the story circles and unfolds gradually. It is not until the final page that the last piece of the tale falls into place and reveals the significance of Veronica’s death.

Percussion is the second novel for Jay Verney. Her first, A Mortality Tale, was shortlisted for the Vogel Award and has been rereleased to coincide with the publication of Percussion. Those who have read the first will enjoy the overlap of character and setting. Whilst Percussion is in no way a sequel, the reappaearance of the central character of A Mortality Tale is an intruguing touch for those readers.

Percussion is a wryly humorous, absorbing novel.

Percussion, by Jay Verney
UQP, 2004