Review of Sheree Renée Thomas, “River, Clap Your Hands”, Uncanny Magazine Issue 40 (2021): Read Online. Reviewed by Isabel Hinchliff.
Ava lives a life of waterborne mystery: she was abandoned on a riverbank as a child, her neck has gills, and she pines after her lost baby, birthed in the midst of a flood. Told in a series of striking vignettes, her story is heartbreaking and yet still offers glimmers of hope, like the play of sunlight over deeply ridged scales. It is an exquisite piece of craft, and a vivid picture of a life strung between two irreconcilable worlds.
This haunting and deeply poetic story has layers; I enjoyed luxuriously re-reading it and hunting out new strands of meaning. On my first read, I found myself fascinated by piecing together the vignettes in chronological order and discovering the true nature of Ava’s physical condition. On my second, with the entire premise already in mind, I discovered many instances of nuance and poetic meaning that I had originally missed. Ava’s rain- and grief-drenched world is deeply relatable at some moments and distantly beautiful in others. It is a delicious mix of craft, imagery, and catharsis; I highly recommend it.