REVIEW: “There and Back Again” by Carmen Maria Machado

Review of Carmen Maria Machado, “There and Back Again”, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books, 2018): 257—260. Purchase Here. Originally published in Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) For the Discerning Drinker (and Reader) edited by Nick Mamatas and Molly Tanzer (Skyhorse Publishing). Purchase Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

I find it hard to get flash fiction to work for horror. This story is (I think) 1500 words, so perhaps on the long side for flash, but similar challenges exist — the need to develop the character, build the plot with limited space. This is a good story but didn’t make a lasting impression. The (vampiric? monstrous?) protagonist is fed people by her mother, who gets them paralytic with killer cocktails first. When the mother dies, the daughter is forced to fend for herself. There is much to admire here, though I was unconvinced by the ending. At heart it’s a redemption story, an illustration that we don’t have to be the monsters we are made into, but I felt there wasn’t enough space in the tale to justify the decisions made.