There is no plot and hardly anything in the way of even an isolated event. We are firmly embedded in the hyperconscious and unapologetic mind of a person for whom solitude and contemplation constitute the fabric of life; she gardens haphazardly, paints her bathroom, reads Die Wand, irons a boyfriend's shirt, tries to order oven knobs that are no longer being manufactured, and takes long, solitary walks. She lives in an ancient cottage, alternately cozy and ramshackle. Perhaps an academic, she gives little insight into her professional life, few friends or lovers acquire names, and she remains difficult to picture. Narrative is denied; thought is both substance and structure. It is not so much that we are listening to a stream of consciousness, but rather that we woke up one fine day inside of this woman who applies the most rigorous intellectual reasoning to domestic life and shows only the quirkiest, most gimlet-eyed concern for what other people think, or really her concern is more like curiosity, a wondering inquiry into whether someone will do something or react in a particular way and whether she can compel that action. When she throws a party, she is distressed when a person other than the one she imagined sits on an ottoman. Or, perhaps 'distressed' isn't the right word.
The right word might be 'nettled.' The emotional tenor of Pond tends to hew closely to the sorts of feelings that we experience daily, but rarely grant much importance. Instead of shrugging off passing observations, dreams, strange and seemingly uncompelled imaginings, the tiny sensations that together add up to a realization that one is alive, the narrator leans in, hard, and confronts them, examines them with microscope or telescope, her choice of closeness or remoteness as much whimsical as anything else.
This sort of writing by anyone will be prone to accusations of navel-gazing and pretension. When the writer is a woman, it will be prone to even harsher accusations of frivolity, self-indulgence, and insipidity. Given the politically charged atmosphere, a defender of this 2015 debut might try to erect a shield of feminism; they wouldn't be completely wrong - it is still quietly revolutionary for a woman to live alone, to treat boyfriends as pleasing but relatively unimportant, to pursue her own, unsanctioned course - but they also wouldn't be completely right. Pond is a slantways book. It is a book in which vegetables, pond scum, cows, bikes, and blankets drift almost into the way of being characters, while people take on the semblance of leaves blown by the wind, dirt clinging to a boot, radio music carried on the air: notable, but no more important than things. Food, both prepared and eaten, the intrusions of animals into human space and humans into animal space, cleaning, both the body and the abode, are the most overt themes.
In essence, this strategy of slippage is a rebellion against "appearing to be located... that's what I object to, and somehow wish to dispel." It is a book that takes place in a specific cottage, in a specific network of country lanes, ponds, cow pastures, highways, gardens, and grocery stores, and the narrator herself is unquestionably specific, and idiosyncratic in her tastes. But, she won't stay still, either physically (her peregrinations are one of the threads by which the reader follows her) or mentally. Restlessness dominates. This quality allows the book to evade genre distinctions, without forcing a rejection of any particular genre, but it also allows the narrator to elude capture. We can't see her, but there's an uncanny, almost queasy feeling that she can see us. This discomfort, this slippage between being seen and being heard keeps the book insistently liminal, insistently not and yet not not. This is why the sign that marks the pond 'Pond' so irks and irritates the narrator, because "invariably this vital process is abruptly thwarted by an idiotic overlay of literal designations and inane alerts so that the whole terrain is obscured and inaccessible..." The narrator, though conscious of the potential violence that accompanies every woman, like a second heart beat, will not be designated, will not be the subject of warnings, but by the same token, she will erect no flag and storm no enemy. Definition destroys as effectively as an executioner's ax. Pond is murkily undefinable, but it hides in its depths fascinating, wiggling creatures, spiky reeds that puncture or break, rich earth where treasure is buried.