Bee once visited the witch in the water and came back with a spell that didn’t work; now she’s come back to beg for a second chance: It’s a quick summary for what is at times a rather stretched-out, sometimes plodding, story. I felt like I would have enjoyed this better if it had been about half the length — and if it weren’t quite so moralizing.
Content note: Premature birth, homophobia.
This was less of a story and more of a series of episodes; but I enjoyed reading it for the detailed Indian world in the background, and for its happy ending.
Content note: Death of a parent.
Hannah and her family — two brothers, a mother, (maybe a father but we never hear about him) — lived on a poisoned island, a place no one ever visited and people only left never to come back. She was there to witness the final airplane that left, taking away the last people who would ever escape. Her story is bloody, visceral, and sad, in ways I did not expect, and threaded through and through with a horrible, malicious religion. A chilling but very good read.
This rather overburdened title accompanied a rather verbose and somewhat lyrical story, kicking off in a chanting sort of rhythm instructing me to do all sorts of things — the sort of opening that always puts me on edge. But if you don’t mind this style of writing, then here’s a little tale with a whole load of Welsh-fairy-tale influences for you.
Larron is pregnant and on probation, her movements, her choices, her life restricted. When her story opens, it is entirely ordinary — up until the moment she finds a package of redbeans, tucked away forgotten on a grocery store shelf. Immediately things shift into the realm of the speculative, in a way that made me anxious with anticipation to find out what’s so special about these redbeans, and how they will change her life (because of course they will. That’s how stories work). I thought I’d get a fairy tale ending; instead I got a horror story!
Content note: Death of a parent.
The story starts off with one parent dying and the other lying about it to their child. It’s a tough start: Not in the sense that it is sad, but in the sense that I am royally judging the narrator and her decision to lie to her child. The narrator thinks she’s being a good mom — but I cannot see any way towards believing that.
As the story progresses it became quite clear that I was right to be on Team Don’t Lie to Your Child, especially as the lies only became compounded. I’m not sure if Glover meant me to feel sympathetically towards the narrator, but, wow, I did not, and ended up (sadly) really disliking this story.
This is the story of how oysters came to create pearls.
It could’ve been rather like one of Kipling’s “Just So” stories, but the prose was rather heavy handed, and lacked the joy and comedy that Kipling’s tales have.
What a beautiful pearl of a story, with so many wonderful threads. For one, it captures beautifully all the ambivalence that can surround childbirth, how it can be a combination of the most beautiful thing ever and the most cold, sterile, and heartless thing, too. For another, it mixes traditional fairy tale and romance tropes with modern concerns of immigration, alienation, foreigness, and cultural appropriation, creating a perfect blend of fantasy and Vietnamese culture. I really loved this, absolutely stellar.
There’s an art to telling fairy tales, the way they use stereotypes and tropes and specific, rhythmic, almost formulaic language. It makes them exceptionally hard to write (in my opinion!). This story sometimes read more like notes for a fairy tale than the finished version itself: Still a good read, but not quite hitting the mark for me.