We never learn the name of the protagonist in Anna Metcalfe's debut novel, Chrysalis , a detail that feels fitting in a book that is in part about how much—or little—we can ever truly know about the people who populate our lives. We experience the protagonist from the perspective of three different onlookers: Elliot, a man at the gym; Bella, the protagonist's mother; and then Susie, a colleague turned friend. We watch the protagonist lift weights, wearing chinos, lace-up boots, and a blouse, balking at a trainer's assumption that she is there to get smaller. We see her strained relationship with her mother, who is learning how to build a life without her daughter close. We witness her heal from trauma she endured in a past romantic relationship. The effect of the novel's triptych form feels like looking at the protagonist through the lens of a kaleidoscope, each segment dazzling, but ultimately fractured, leaving compelling gaps in our perception of who she is. This theme is echoed in the narrative itself. As the protagonist isolates herself in reality, she experiences a meteoric rise in fame as an influencer, curating every bit of her existence and crafting the ways she allows herself to be seen by others. Throughout the novel, through the eyes of others, we watch as the protagonist metamorphoses into someone who becomes nearly unrecognizable, leaving each narrator […]
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