Review of Gabriela Santiago, “Children of Air”, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #36 Early Autumn: pp. 2-8. Purchase here. Reviewed by Ben Serna-Grey.
Second-person narrative is something that can be a bit of a barrier for me in terms of really getting into a piece. This story is opened up with a lovely little selection from Robert Lois Stevenson, then jumps right into second-person narration, which admittedly raised my hackles a little bit.
The saving grace of this work is that the narration is fairly loose; it reads more like guidelines as opposed to a sequence of actions and thoughts you’re supposedly taking.
The story tells, in a sequence of vignettes, about the Children of St. Paul, aka the children of air, who are ghost-like figures.
Everything blends together into a dream-like blur as the story goes on. It starts out telling you about the park, and the plaque there dedicated to the Children of St. Paul, and how the park isn’t so suited to living children. Then the “you” addressed in the story falls asleep, falls into a surreal dream, wakes up and take seven of the children home for a sleepover. Meanwhile the weight of the children begins to weigh heavily on your emotions, and you’re urged over and over to drink milk to help with that burden. I don’t want to give away spoilers for anyone interested in the story, so I’ll just say the ending does come with an implied message.
I enjoyed the surreal aspects of this story, and the overall arc and message of it. The only thing that still ended up keeping me from really connecting was the second-person narration. Even still, I’d recommend a read, as it’s still skillfully made with a nice blend of melancholy, surrealism, and wit.