Okay, this isn’t really a book review. This is really personal, self-serving blather. The actual book review is this:
Cate Gardner’s collection of short stories makes me incredibly jealous, so jealous, in fact, that I had to put the book down and walk away several times. It’s as though a modern-day woman had picked up where Lewis Carroll left off, and was writing for the grown women that Carroll’s little girls would have eventually become. Which is to say, she writes nonsense, the very best kind.
And that’s what I’m putting up on Goodreads.
However, I was noodling around while I was reading this book, in between fits of jealousy. Well, not literal fits, but at points I had to stop reading and clean house for a while, which is the DeAnna equivalent of a cat bathing itself when annoyed.
I was struck that the stories were like mysteries of nonsense–that is, they’re nonsense (non-linear sense?), but I could pick out the ideas behind the story, if I stopped and thought about them.
Mysteries are like that, too: you want to make them difficult but not impossible to solve, and people who read a lot of mysteries tend to be able to solve them better than people who don’t. (I don’t know enough people who solve actual mysteries to be able to tell how they are with solving book-mysteries.) I tend to enjoy mysteries that I can’t solve; I find mysteries in which I can solve the puzzle too much before the ending a letdown. I’m paying mystery writers to be more clever than I am, after all.
Cate’s stories are like that, but not in a “whodunnit” sense. In more of a “WTF is going on here” sense.
For example, in one of the shorter stories, “Burying Sam,” she writes a story about a young woman who has become something like a zombie. Men come with a glass coffin and take the woman away. The last line of the story is, “Not exactly Snow White is she?”
Okay, a retelling of the Snow White story. Easy; she handed that one to us. Snow White doesn’t die, she falls into a deep sleep. What else doesn’t die? Zombies.
However, there’s a worm that crawls out of the girl’s face, and the narrator also says, several times, that the young woman is not her daughter, not Samantha, and the narrator is selling her zombified body to a facility where scientists will study “the reactions of the dead with various inhumane methods.”
If this is a retelling of the Snow White story, who is the narrator?
The evil stepmother–except she’s not really a step-mother, she’s a mother who has turned herself into something one step away from being a mother. One step back from being a mother. I wonder if the mother didn’t poison her own daughter for gain in this story, but there’s nothing to support it, one way or the other.
I think I got at least parts of the mysteries in the stories throughout the book. Sure, maybe the writer doesn’t do these kinds of things on purpose and I’m reading too much into it. But I’m having fun.