REVIEW: “Things That Happened While We Waited for Our Magical Grandmother to Die – No. 39” by Kuzhali Manickavel

Review of Kuzhali Manickavel, “Things That Happened While We Waited for Our Magical Grandmother to Die – No. 39”, Strange Horizons 30 Apr. 2018: Read online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.

If there was ever a story I had mixed feelings about, it’s this one.

This story follows our narrator and two other characters, Kumar and Mythili, presumably as they wait for their grandmother to die (although the grandmother is barely mentioned and does not factor into the story). But the house they live in is strange, mazelike, and it is not easy to escape. Yet Mythili is determined to get out.

I like Mythili a lot, her determination to escape the house and the life it traps her into. She’s immediately empathetic. The narrator and Kumar don’t think she can escape and assume bad things would happen if she did, but Mythili doesn’t let that daunt her. Really, she’s more the main character of the story than the narrator, who does little other than simply watch and comment.

On the other hand, I cannot stand Kumar. The way he treats Mythili is reprehensible, and it almost ruins the story for me. I have no patience for a character who tries to get the house staff to sing a chorus of “stupid b****” and assaults another character and yet never gets any comeuppance for his actions.

But in a way, Mythili gets her revenge. She gets out. She escapes. And like the narrator, I too hope she forgets about the house and its inhabitants.