This is an epistolary upmarket literary mystery women's fiction...? I think...? I don't know. There's no neat little box for this to be...moreI am stunned.
This is an epistolary upmarket literary mystery women's fiction...? I think...? I don't know. There's no neat little box for this to be put into, but I absolutely loved it. From scathing social commentary to constantly evolving views of who is in the right and who is in the wrong and the slow realization that literally every single character is diagnosable with a legit mental disorder... WOW.
It's not a book about mental diseases, but it treats them with caution and respect and fear and disdain all at once.
It's not a book about families, but families fall apart and come together and stay together for the wrong reasons and drift aimlessly.
It's not a book about growing up, but the fifteen-year-old girl certainly does, right before our eyes.
Some books are about heavy subjects and they are hard to read because there is so much pain and darkness involved (Gillian Flynn's work comes to mind). This book is about heavy subjects, but they are presented in a light way that feels so real as to be completely tangible, but without being disrespectful or flippant.
Don't judge it by its cover. That cover is so silly and not reflective of the story at all.
PARENTAL ADVISORIES: Sex 2/5: One brief mention of one night of sex, no details, no actual sexiness. Pretty clinical, but it is blatantly sex and not "making out under the covers".
Violence 1/5: Brief, passing mention of forced abortions in generations passed.
Language 4/5: Probably a dozen swears throughout the entire book, half of those are f-bombs. Though they often use the phrase "f-bomb" rather than actually using the word.
Substance Abuses 3/5: Adults drink liquor off-screen. A character self-medicates with pain pills. A very minor teenaged character gets caught up in drugs and drinking.
I'm not sure if I'm better off having read the essays by Gaiman and Adams about how these books came to be. I feel like knowing Adams' story gives me...moreI'm not sure if I'm better off having read the essays by Gaiman and Adams about how these books came to be. I feel like knowing Adams' story gives me insight into why the books are uneven, but then I'm not sure if that's a really great thing to know...
Whatever. These books are satire at its finest, even when the books themselves don't make a ton of sense.
PARENTAL ADVISORIES (For the overall series, since I didn't do reviews for the in-between books)
Sex 1/5: Vague allusions to personal relationships or to the existence of prostitutes.
Language 3/5: This one was really difficult. I think there are 3 f-bombs in the entire series (five books plus a short story), and maybe five other PG-level swears throughout the whole thing. So there's very, very, very little swearing, but when one does pop up, it's kind of a bad one.
Violence 2/5: It's all cartoony-spaceship kind of violence. No combat, no gore.
Substance Abuses 1/5: Some social drinking, mentions of hallucinogenic drugs. (less)
A blend of creepy an beautiful, a set of haunting tales that will leave you desperately wanting more and desperately wanting it to stop. An anthology...moreA blend of creepy an beautiful, a set of haunting tales that will leave you desperately wanting more and desperately wanting it to stop. An anthology filled with psychopaths, zombies, and horrifying fantasies, this is perfect set of short stories to keep you entertained, just five minutes at a time.(less)
I had a hard time deciding where to place this book on my shelves: I mean, obviously, there's a major historical element, as 90% of the book takes pla...moreI had a hard time deciding where to place this book on my shelves: I mean, obviously, there's a major historical element, as 90% of the book takes place in the ante bellum South. But the main character is a modern black woman who travels back in time via a preternatual link she shares with a slave owner. Time travel would normally make a story science fiction automatically, right? But there's no feat of physics here, and the "science" mimics magic more than anything... and that's how I landed on "historical" and "fantasy" as the genre classification.
This is the second speculative fiction novel I've read in a row in which the speculative elements were so subtle that they were almost unnoticeable. The story is character-driven, full of beautiful prose that isn't usually found in spec fic at all. I want to call it a literary novel with minor speculative elements - though it often gets sold as science-fiction.
(Side note: black woman wrote and sold "science fiction" in the 1970s... why are we still dickering about with pen names and the whole "girls can't write sci-fi" nonsense at cons???)
Back to this book: It was beautiful. Poignant, powerful, and just gorgeously written. The protagonist, Dana, is strong with being a Strong Female Character. She just... is. She knows what is right and what she is entitled to, but she has limits and the story pushes her to those limits over and over again.
I also love how... confused? Is that the right word? Maybe conflicted is better... I love how conflicted she was about her place and her position in the slave-holding South. She knew it was wrong, but she understood how easy it was to be manipulated, coerced, and forced to do things you knew were wrong. So powerfully presented.
Don't get me wrong - this wasn't a "Gone with the Wind" sort of presentation of slavery. It was brutal, honest, and graphic. But it was also incredibly human. Lives were involved - not just statistics and faceless stories. I shed a lot of tears during this book.
I'm definitely going to pull some more books by this author, I want to see what else she has to say.
Violence 5/5: This was tough to rate. The violence isn't gory (like Goodkind or Martin), but it is horrific. Cold-blooded, vicious. Murder, suicide, hangings, whippings, beatings, casual violence. Multiple rapes happen off-screen.
Sex 1/5: One really, really vague reference to the fact that a man and wife missed each other and didn't get to sleep until late one night. Allusions to the fact that they were "practically living together" before they were married.
Language 4/5: Lots of uses of the N-word. All in a historical context, and the modern character discusses her displeasure of it repeatedly, but still. It's a lot. A handful of lesser words, and the B-word is tossed about several times too.
Substance Abuses 1/5: A character gets drunk once. Whiskey is passed around at a party.