I meant this to be a monthly series, but that was always too ambitious, especially given the rhythms of the academic calendar. Here’s a sampling of my favorite reads from the last few months, in no particular order.
“Mr. Try Again” by A. Merc Rustad: “Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever.” So Rustad begins, and the tension and horror spin out from that gripping opening, elegantly and precisely leading us into the swamp, preparing us for what we’ll encounter there. Rustad’s breathtaking skill at horror is on full display here, and I wait hungrily for their next story.
“Flow” by Marissa Lingen: this story was on my “to read” list for a few weeks before I found the time, and then immediately regretted that I hadn’t got to it sooner. Naiads, conservation, disability, and community come together in brilliant and unexpected ways throughout this tale. To say much more about it would be to spoil some of the effect, so I’ll just add: go read it.
“Burning Season” by C. L. Clark: a translator with exceptional linguistic abilities tries to survive in the wake of the latest conquest of her home, and struggles with her own losses and guilt. This is a wonderfully complex and thoughtful story, working brilliantly as a narrative and also bringing deep insight into matters of postcolonialism and queer relationships. It’s also extremely well performed, if you prefer to get your stories in podcast form.
“Every Black Tree” by Natalia Theodoridou: a man cursed with immortality seeks death. An always-pregnant woman tries to survive others’ hate and raise her daughter. Both are struggling with the horrors of the past, and seeking to navigate the complications they’ve brought into one another’s lives. An elegant and deeply moving story that explore the complex ties that bind us to the living and the dead.
“From the Root” by Emma Törzs: our narrator is a Regenitrix, able to regrow body parts, recover from almost any wound. Only two natural causes can kill one: old age or childbirth, both inevitably fatal. When our narrator’s ambitions cross with a doctor’s and a fellow Regenitrix (pregnant and preparing for the end), none of them can predict what will come of it. A compelling exploration of pregnancy, 18th century medicine, and the choices women make to try to protect themselves from men. Törzs’ narrative is wonderful and kept me guessing throughout, and her prose is scalpel-sharp.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: McGuire breathes new life into portal fantasies by imagining what happens to those who have been through doorways to other lands–and then, sometimes years later, found themselves back in our world, desperate to return. One of these unfortunates has founded a school to help them work through their loss. New student Nancy is just trying to settle in when a murder puts everything and everyone at risk. McGuire portrays her characters deftly, and the cosmology of her multiverse is wonderful, inventive, and thought-provoking. I adored this novel about home, friendship, and the power of knowing oneself.