Marilyn and Brad have the perfect suburban life, until their newly adopted twelve-year-old daughter Zhanna arrives with one thing on her mind: to burn the family couch. Brad’s out of town and Marilyn is left alone to save her sanity and her suede from a inscrutable pyromaniacal tween in this tragicomic novella.
“Zhanna wanted to burn the couch. I watched the TV. She watched the couch. It was like that every night.” So begins Tollifson’s (Mother) hilarious dark comedy about a 12-year-old girl hell-bent on setting the living room seating aflame and the woman who’s become her unwilling sentinel. Zhanna, adopted at age nine from a Russian orphanage, has never bonded with Marilyn, and with a glibly unconcerned father/husband away from home more often than not, the two have established an uneasy détente, aided by night vision cameras, motion sensor alarms, and a wholly inept and inappropriate therapist who can’t seem to grasp the gravity of Marilyn’s situation: “I felt heat coming from the door and worried if the window in Dr. Gary’s office would open, and if we could safely get out,” Marilyn narrates. “We were two floors up and I had no memory of whether or not the building had a fire escape.... My throat was closing. These could be the last few moments of my life.” An arresting narrative from beginning to end, Tollifson’s short novel introduces a cast of characters you’ll remember for some time. (BookLife)