In an unnamed town in the summer of 1998, Judy is an isolated and inexperienced teenager on the cusp of adulthood struggling to craft an identity for herself—especially as the artist she wants to be.
There is little help around her. Her only friends are increasingly obsessed with a cultish belief in a coming “Big Shadow.” Her mother is afraid of life and finds solace in TV shows. At her lowest point, Judy meets Maurice Blunt, a visiting summer poetry class professor who is a “has-been” fixture of the 1970s NYC punk music scene. Judy believes Maurice—a man more than twice her age desperately seeking lost adoration—is the ticket out of her current life. Soon, she begins taking secret weekend trips to visit him.
Judy’s visits to his apartment in New York bring hopes of belonging to the city’s cultural world and making a living as a video artist. With each trip and frustrated promise, however, she feels the creeping realization that there is a price to pay for her golden ticket entry into this insular and moribund scene. Judy must navigate the shifting power dynamics with her aging gatekeeper and the possibility of building an early adult identity alone.
A delicious novel of psychological nuance and dark humour, Big Shadow explores the costs of self-deceit, fandom, and tenuous ambitions, exposing the lies we’ll tell ourselves and the promises we’ll make to edge closer to what we want… or what we think we want.
Marta Balcewicz’s fiction has appeared in publications such as Catapult, Tin House online, Washington Square Review, and Tiny Crimes (Catapult, 2018). Her poetry is published in journals including AGNI, Malahat Review, and PRISM International. She was a 2022 Tin House Scholar. From 2018 to 2022, she served as the fiction editor of the Minola Review. She spent her early childhood in Soviet Bloc Pomerania and in Madrid. She lives in Toronto. Big Shadow is her first book.