Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking
St. Martin's Press: 1/24/17
eBook review copy: 288 pages
Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking is a highly recommended debut genre-bending novel about a young man looking for his sister.
The unnamed narrator in Three Years with the Rat is called by
various nicknames, Grace's little brother, Scruffy by a friend, and
Danger by his new Toronto girlfriend, Nicole (or Trouble.) When our
narrator, an underachiever with no real life goals, moves to Toronto
where Grace and John, her boyfriend, live, he meets their friends and is
included in their social circle. Grace is graduate student in
psychophysics. She and John are working on a project involving rats and
When John and Grace's landlord calls and wants him to clean out their
apartment because they are gone, our narrator discovers in their
apartment a handmade wooden box big enough to crawl inside and lined
with mirrors, Buddy the rat, a notebook
written in code, and a note
that says: This is the only way back for us. Now he must
unravel what they did and how to get them back. He knows that somehow
Buddy can disappear and travel back and forth between wherever space the
box leads to and where our narrator lives.
The narrative jumps back and forth in time over the three years in the
title, 2006-2008, so readers will want to pay attention to what year
they are in which is noted at the start of each chapter. That doesn't
mean you will understand everything that is happening during that
timeline, but eventually more and more information is revealed that will
help you later. This shifting chronology makes the presentation feel
fragmented, so you will have to overcome this as you are reading.
The novel itself has elements of science fiction, a mystery,
suspense/horror, and magic realism. It is definitely not straight
science fiction. The writing is good. Characters aren't as well
developed as I prefer so I was never fully invested in what happens to
them, and the dialogue is awkward. While the narrator seeks answers
about where his sister and John went, he is also seeking answers about
what happened with his relationship with Nicole, and he's trying to care
All this seems like I might rate Three Years with the Rat lower,
but I was intrigued by the idea and was able to overlook some elements
of the presentation to get to the end of the story. It's not fully
resolved, but enough for closure. Additionally, I was eager to read what
happened next and thought about Three Years with the Rat after I was finished with the novel. 3.5 rounded up.
My review copy was courtesy
of St. Martin's Press.