Review of A.C. Buchanan, “Girls Who Do Not Drown”, Apex Magazine 115 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.
On an unnamed island in the cold ocean, girls grow up knowing that the sea may kill them as they grow up, when glashtyns will come to lure them beneath the waves. That is the way it has always been and the way it will always be. For Alice, this destiny is complicated by the fact that everyone else thinks she is a boy. But when a glashtyn comes for her anyway, she realizes that if the water horse can see what she really is, then someone else may figure it out too. She walks into the ocean.
The writing and the storytelling here floored me. It’s a simple story on the surface, but Buchanan brings forward every ounce of pathos, delivering it to the reader like an offering. There is violence here, and a deep isolation, but it never feels overwrought. If anything, the descriptions are surprisingly restrained, and the mirroring of supernatural and real-world themes is allowed to speak for itself.
I am not ashamed to admit that the ending of the story made me cry. It is a good ending, and more hopeful than I would have believed. I won’t spoil it beyond what you can infer from the title, but this is a beautiful, resonant story.