In ‘Spring,’ Ali Smith’s Series Takes Its Most Political Turn – The New York Times

In ‘Spring,’ Ali Smith’s Series Takes Its Most Political Turn – The New York Times

Other characters will board trains north as well. They will ultimately collide with one another. One of these is Brittany, a woman who works at a brutal immigrant detention center run by a private security firm. She’s learned things like “how to talk weather” while “holding someone in headlock.” About her eating habits, we read: “Her favorite food is anything burnt.”

One day Brittany meets and inexplicably follows onto a train a 12-year-old girl named Florence, an orphan who is a kind of savant of justice, like some combination of Emma González, the Parkland shooting survivor and activist, and Leia Organa from “Star Wars.”

Florence somehow manages to slip into the detention center and have the place cleaned up. She pelts the management with questions like “Why, when you bring people here, do you bring them in the middle of the night?” and “Is migrating to another country because you need help actually a crime?”

The paths of Richard and Brittany and Florence align. I won’t say more about what happens, except to note that we learn of a sort of underground railroad, a community of people who help immigrants escape the clutches of the security state.

“Spring” shares certain themes and concerns with the two earlier novels in this cycle, but they needn’t be read in sequence. You can pick them off in any order.

This novel pivots toward a potentially dark ending. Smith deals out gloom with a practiced hand. “The sky,” she writes, “was a massive closed door.” Her “Spring” can really hang you up the most.

Smith’s vision isn’t fundamentally pessimistic, however. There’s too much squirming life in her fiction, slashes of cleansing light for those who seek it.

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