Kira Henehan has reached into the wheezing carcass of the traditional detective story and relieved it of all its bones and logic. Funny serious

Kira Henehan, Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles ( Milkweed Editions, 2010)

"Immediately captivating, Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles introduces readers to Finley, an investigator of indiscernible origins and prowess who is assigned to a mysterious Professor Uppal and his puppets. The nature of the investigation isn’t clear, but Finley nonetheless forges ahead, with occasional assistance from her colleagues Murphy, The Lamb, and Binelli, as well as the professor’s beautiful daughter and her sinister boyfriend. The investigation circles in on itself until Finley realizes that she may be close to discovering the truth about her forgotten life. Both whimsical and deeply serious, Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles casts a shadow that touches on literary novels, noir, and philosophical pursuits, bringing them all into the singularity of existence itself.!"

"There is a noirish tinge to the plot, which involves a secretive investigation; the heroine, Finley, is certainly hardboiled, the characters she encounters mysterious in their motivations—but the tone is closer to Lewis Carroll than Raymond Chandler. (Alice in Wonderland-like touches include a Quadrille, a rum-raisin cake, and satirical absurdities including send ups of communes and performance art.) The meandering narrative is subordinate to sprightly wordplay and stylistic elegance, but contextual meaning isn’t sacrificed... Funny, fanciful, and kinetic, this work earns its place in any collection of experimental fiction." —Foreword

"In playfully measured prose, Henehan’s poignant farce evokes Beckett and her world is as funny and inventive as that of George Saunders, but her bold voice and tenderness make for something entirely original, entertaining, and well worth the read." —Booklist

"A very intriguing novel filled with insistent rhythms and syntactical playfulness. Henehan's precision and obvious delight with language make the voice of this novel wonderful company. One is reminded of certain European writers like Beckett or Bernhard, but Henehan has also made something—funny, ominous—of her own."—Sam Lipsyte

"Orion You Came... is not just smashingly titled, it is also beautifully, madly, electrically alive. Beware of its puppets. Watch out for Murphy. Keep track of The Lamb. Consider Uppal. Question Finley. Here is worthy work for the fingers, the heart, the eyes, the mind."—Laird Hunt

"Kira Henehan has reached into the wheezing carcass of the traditional detective story and relieved it of all its bones and logic. The result is a novel unlike anything I’ve read before: hilarious, severe, baffling, and sometimes so far over my head that I can only see a distant glow." —Ben Marcus

"Finley—red-haired, yellow-eyed, sometimes unreliable—narrates a sublime and cryptic debut in the vein of Sam Lipsyte's The Subject Steve about a group of detectives (or maybe they're not detectives) investigating a peculiar professor. Among the group is Murphy, with his pockets full of marbles and a tendency to be inexplicably smelly; Binelli, the almost omniscient leader of the crew; and the Lamb, who is beautiful and brilliant, or possibly just great at acting brilliant. The dreamy plotlike chain of events at the novel's center revolves around the four detectives trying to find some information of some sort about Professor Uppal and his amazing puppets, though the goals, specifically, are never quite clear, and Henehan finds plenty of time for bizarre asides. At its heart, the novel is an impressionistic tale propelled by Henehan's gorgeously arch prose and a constant stream of droll humor. The ephemeral plotting will either be frustrating or fabulous, depending on the reader, but there's no doubt that Henehan is a talent." - Publishers Weekly

"The protagonists in this debut novel are young adults living in contemporary England, somewhere near Battersea. The narrator, Finley, is a self-proclaimed investigator on an assignment having something to do with Professor Uppal's puppets. Another main character writes and puts on a play near the novel's end. And that's about all the action in this cleverly written exposition of noir atmosphere and skillful wordplay. The characters hang around a place called the Tiki Barn, where the eccentric, deviled egg-loving Tiki Ty cooks mouthwatering shrimp and dipping sauce. All types of characters enter the Barn for tasty treats, and our "detective" is constantly surveying them as well as the bookstore and vintage surfing memorabilia available. VERDICT Henehan has started out well by winning the Milkweed National Fiction Prize for this book, and one hopes she'll continue her thoughtful investigations into language, behavior, and all types of mysteries. Recommended for young adult/adult readers who like a rollicking fun read that tickles the brain." — Lisa Rohrbaugh

"Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles by Kira Henehan would, I suppose, fall into the experimental category. It is surreal and weird and things don’t always make sense but sometimes do later and sometimes never. But while it is strange it isn’t strange in an impossible way and it is often funny.
The premise of the book is an investigative report. Finley, our red-headed yellow-eyed heroine is the writer of the report. She is investigating Professor Uppal and his puppets. Neither we nor Finley know the objective of the investigation which of course makes investigating a bit difficult.
Finley works with fellow investigators Murphy and The Lamb. Their boss is Binelli who gives them their assignments and criticizes their work. Finley is jealous of The Lamb who has beautiful curly hair and seems to be a super intellectual. There are three chapters in the book in which Finley presents a different possibility in each on how The Lamb’s freakish intelligence came about. They are wild postulations that are quite amusing.
Something else important about Finley and upon which the story turns: she can’t remember anything of her life from before The Silence. Finley’s great talent is being able to win any standoff that involves silence and stillness or maintaining a straight face. She is so good at it that once she was silent for so long she forgot who she was. During the course of her investigation of Professor Uppal and his puppets, she is also investigating herself.
I’m not quite sure how to tell you anything else about this book so I will give you a couple of scenes. In this scene Finley and Tiki Ty whose place the whole team is staying at and who makes shrimps and dipping sauce that bring on bliss to all who partake, are visiting Kiki B, a character we don’t know much about other than that she lives at Battersea at the moment because she needs to rest. During the visit they have a picnic that is like no other especially when they get to the cakes course:
We were all beached together on the bed by the picnic’s natural conclusion, covered in crumbs. The cakes course had been vigorous. We’d looked at one another in the eyes and made a silent commitment, however, to see the thing through to the end. We sallied forth, forged ahead, through black forest and pecan and varieties of pumpkin as well as of course the families sponge, yellow, and angel.
We made a team the likes of which had been sorely missed on this earth since the time of the ancient Olympiads
This made me want cake very badly, but not as much cake as they had. Just a slice. Maybe two.
There is another scene towards the end of the book in which a dance hall suddenly appears in the night and Finley goes in, drawn by the music:
The people inside took no notice of my frug’s flawlessness, a flawless frug just par for the course in a joint like this. I took a partner and we took care of business. We mashed the potato. We did the twist. We popped the corn and hankied the panky and we walked the dog until the dog planted his back legs as best he could on such a polished wood floor and refused to go any farther.
My nameless partner and I separated with empty promises and tearful gaspings, and I limped to the refreshment stand to punch myself sated for the next round.
Punch, the red beverage. Not punch, the fists of fury. Punching myself with the fists of fury would have had the opposite effect than that intended. Punching myself would have made further dancing impossible, and my objective with the punch – the red beverage punch – was to make farther dancing not only possible but unstoppable.
I drank one punch quickly and then ladled another to sip over time.
I knew how to take a punch.
I wasn’t wowed by the book, but I did enjoy it. It was something very different than the usual and oddly, it worked as a great counterpoint to Carlyle (who I am still reading). This book is definitely not for everyone. You have to be willing to suspend your constant desire and need to make sense of things. If you can’t manage that then you and this book will not get along." - Stefanie Hollmichel

"The first chapter (after a Preamble and an Addendum to Preamble) of Kira Henehan’s eccentric debut novel opens with Finley, a yellow-eyed amnesiac investigator, laying out the terrain: “It was all over gravel, but better than the last place. There was all over swampland and crocodiles.” This baffling and barely grammatical description sets the tone for Henehan’s absurdist detective novel, which takes place in a sort of nowhere landscape out of Beckett.

Finley chronicles the vicissitudes of her assignment—issued to her by Binelli, the ringleader of her reconnaissance unit—to investigate the puppets of one Professor Uppal. Alongside her colleagues Murphy and The Lamb, whose own assignments don’t seem to link to hers in any logical way, Finley gains access to Professor and Madame Uppal, as well as the Uppals’ luminous daughter, Odille, and her cunning artiste boyfriend, Rogan, whose latest gimmick involves “framing” people—literally creating frames in which people’s images are fixed. Wherever the team’s madcap detective work takes them, the investigators invariably end up at Tiki Ty’s Tiki Barn, a bookstore cum vintage surfing memorabilia museum, which “unlikely seeming as it seemed, [always] seemed to be exactly the same place.” Fueled by Tiki Ty’s infamous shrimp cocktail, Finley writes the detailed report that serves as the text of the novel (with the occasional interjection from her colleagues).

Although they are ostensibly working, Henehan’s characters are constantly at play: whether cavorting on rooftops, stage-acting, or investigating puppets. But the high stakes attached to their clowning are implied early on. When Binelli abruptly appears in the novel for the first time, Finley and Binelli engage in a “brief but meaningful” standoff. After pronouncing one another’s names, they fall into tension-filled silence: “I can win any contest involving silence or stillness or maintaining a straight face. I once, presumably out of some heart-felt anger, maintained a silence for so long that I forgot who I was. With speech went character, with character memory, with memory me.” All of this suggests a certain dramatic weight underpinning the slapstick capers, a larger meaning beyond silliness for silliness’s sake.

Henehan is similarly at serious play with language: employing Francophile quotation dashes, Winnie-the-Pooh-style capitalization of Very Important Concepts, and crazy-making syntax. She clearly delights in the piquant turn of phrase, spinning marvelously riotous prose. Mulling over the provenance of a platter of cured meats—was it prepared by Madame Uppal or Odille?—Finley declares the groggy Madame Uppal to be “in no condition to prepare a sumptuous feast of anything except perhaps an assortment of leftover medications.” At times the hilarity becomes a bit too much, however, and at its weakest Henehan’s narrative is more self-amused than genuinely amusing.

Henehan borrows from the uncanny (doppelgängers; puppets) and the absurd (Beckett; Ionesco) to great effect, but also shares some of these traditions’ foibles. Orion gestures to, without casting any light on, existential questions—questions that are suggested rather than clearly posed. We get the impression that Henehan is driving at something larger, but her narrative wanders drunkenly off toward some hazy vanishing point of meaning, leaving behind a dreamy and sometimes maddening trail of antics." — Megan Doll

"I couldn't fully digest this slim, surprisingly dense, little book, but I loved it, and I plan to read it at least a few more times until I finally figure it out. It's a surreal combination of detective novel and tale of self-discovery, set in an alternate reality with a plot that curves and folds in on itself enough times to make your head spin. Amazingly, instead of throwing the book down in frustration after finishing it, I was ready to pick it up again and start over from the beginning to see if I could actually make sense of each succinct, bitingly witty chapter. In Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles, Kira Henehan’s Milkweed National Prize-winning debut novel, things are just slightly off, and I never felt like I was completely following the story's events, or the narrator's pattern of logic. That’s OK, though, because the narrator, Finley, really didn’t seem to know what was going on, either. Finley is an investigator whose assignment involves one of her Most Hated Things: puppets. The objective of the investigation is unclear, but it seems that Finley is off to a rocky start. After several pages devoted to Finley’s task of investigating Up All Puppets! despite her misgivings, we learn that she is, in fact, investigating Uppal Puppets, the pride and joy of Mr. Uppal, an eccentric Indian man across the room who is certainly not the Puppet Man-turned-Lacrosse-Team Remnant that she has been flirting with all night.
Finley’s story, which is actually a meticulous record of her assignment, reads like the tale one of the dolls on Joss Whedon’s show Dollhouse might tell, if before entering the Dollhouse and having her mind wiped clean, she had been a poet and simply couldn’t shake the habit of using carefully chosen words in startlingly bright phrases, even if she couldn't remember her own name. Finley has no recollection of her past, though her co-investigators hint at things they know about her from “before.” Her identity (and Russian heritage, despite her flaming red hair and yellow eyes) is fabricated, given to her by Binelli, a man to whom she pledges allegiance and obedience. The novel is as much about Finley’s discovery of her self as it is about her investigation of the puppet situation, which may or may not be related to her personal discovery mission. The events in the story are really just one absurd moment after another, many of which involve shrimp. Specifically, the delicious shrimp with special dipping sauce that Tiki Ty (known to all but Finley as Tiki Thai) sells in his Tiki Barn, a “large bright generous sort of bookstore-slash-vintage surfing memorabilia museum.”
Though much of the story happens in scenes that are mostly sequential but hard to pin down on a timeline, there are a few passages in the book that are clearly grounded in one time span and focused on one topic. These are the occasions when Finley diverges from her telling of her investigation and its related events to relay a few of her theories behind the freakish intelligence of The Lamb, another investigator that Finley alternately loves and hates. These theories take the form of complete, coherent stories, told as modern fairy tales resulting in the creation of the freakishly intelligent woman. The stories themselves are works of art, and their inclusion in Finley’s own story is genius. The fact that these delightful stories come from Finley, whose thought process seems less than logical, leads the reader to wonder if she's perhaps some sort of savant. Her naïve genius seems plausible, given her awkwardness and difficulty deciphering standard social norms. Around Finley, awkward near-kisses abound, despite a lack of provocation.
It’s a fascinating book about an entirely enigmatic cast of characters in madcap situations, all told in a dreamy, surreal style that reads almost like poetry, yet it is also really funny. Throughout the novel, Finley pays very careful attention to the words she chooses, often including her rationale behind her word choice as part of an anecdote or explanation. This specificity undoubtedly mirrors the author’s own, and is an integral part of the constellation that is this book. Never before have I read a book that so delights in the words of the text themselves; Finley's frequent misunderstandings due to pronunciation differences and word choice add a smart dose of humor, and her off-the-cuff remarks are witty and often surprising. The word “impressionistic” has been used to describe Henehan’s writing, and I think this perfect: subtle daubs of phrase smear together and loosely shape people and places that ultimately form a unique portrait of a very specific, stylized vision of one woman's curiosity." - Kylee Stoor

"What if Nancy Drew grew up and lived in a bizarrely enigmatic film-noir world? That question is answered in this novel, where we meet Finley: a discerning, meticulous investigator working at a nameless agency.
Her latest case involves the cryptic Professor Uppal and his equally vexing puppets. The reasoning for the case is obscure, as Finley seems to investigate everything but the marionettes and their maker. Unfettered, she embarks upon making sense of the case with her colleagues, The Lamb and Murphy. Henehan's packed, straightforward prose (Finley spares no detail or observation) stays transparent while the plot dives into surreal territory. Meanwhile, characters appear and disappear under strange circumstances, behave absurdly, and unveil complicated backstories of their own.
As Finley uncovers the case of the puppets, the novel becomes a story about halves, about things that are unfinished, and it becomes clear that even Finley is not whole. She acts like an empty vessel juxtaposed against this noir detective landscape, deeply describing everyone she encounters but hardly describing herself. She watches, listens, and reports dutifully but does not remember much of her own past or even her real name. In this context, Henehan weaves a delicious plot of self-discovery as if in a dreamlike state. Each new development reveals a change in Finley's own existence and resets the very world of the novel itself." - Bust Magazine

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