In “Hideous Flowerpots,” Palwick imagines a supernatural cure for cynicism and jadedness – particularly when those are fused to toxic shame and self-criticism. The focus is less the cure itself, and much more who a person needs to be in order to submit to it.
This reviewer can identify all too easily with the portrayal of criticism as distancing, isolating; the sense of growing ever more bitter about the creation you’re ostensibly there to celebrate. The way this arc develops, the steps towards remedy, and the respect and admiration for people who soldier on even absent perfection, ring true to me.
At the same time, the story is very clear on not being just about jaded criticism. That’s what protagonist Lauren is dealing with, but every woman she meets has had her own travails and traumas. Cynicism works nicely here, because it turns the process into something very adversarial — but this applies to other moments of despair and doubt just as well.
A quietly powerful story.