REVIEW: “Propagating Peonies” by Suzan Palumbo

Review of Suzan Palumbo, “Propagating Peonies”, Podcastle: 515 — Listen Online. Reviewed by Heather Rose Jones

How long do you wait for reunion when you and your beloved are out of sync on the paths of reincarnation? Arthi remains near the village waiting for the love who left her to return: as a peony, a butterfly, a cat. She is feared–or appreciated–as a witch as she waits for the cycles to turn. But when what you longed for finally arrives after so much waiting, is it worth it? This is a slow-moving, meandering story, rich in description and detail with more of a slice-of-life structure than a conflict-driven plot. The action is internal and in the end there is more acceptance than resolution.

I’m not sure how I feel about this story. It didn’t grab me by the throat but it isn’t that kind of tale. I kept trying to work out if the setting were inspired by some particular real-world culture or was entirely imaginative. It felt like the latter, so I didn’t worry quite so much about the logistics of how the reincarnation was supposed to work (except for wondering why it only seemed to be relevant for the central characters). Pleasant, but not likely to stick with me as deeply memorable.