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160 pages, ebook
First published October 13, 2015
I received an egalley of this novella from the publisher for review. Thank you to Tor.com Publishing! This review is my honest opinion.
Patience Gideon is a witch, and she spends every day at Edda’s Meadow keeping this secret from her neighbors while trying to help them. If any of those who come to her for aid suspect that she’s a witch—and provides a safe house for others with supernatural abilities—they haven’t said. Then a young shapeshifter is caught, and all of Patience’s secrets might spill out… and those of other women in town. Patience may choose to help only herself or the others who depend on each other in this hidden part of their lives.
This was a dark story. Patience is not a “good” witch. Neither are her fellow sisters. There is no higher virtuous calling that these women follow. They help if they can, but they’ll refuse help if it endangers them. They are not going to risk their lives unnecessarily. Patience even has a moment where she seriously considers running and leaving her adopted daughter behind—even if she might be implicated as a witch in Patience’s absence.
I liked this practical, dark view of witchcraft and the women with the gift who practice it. Patience was humanized by what she shares of her past, and what she’s done for her daughter Gilly. But there’s also no denying that she’s done some terrible things and is prepared to do more. And it’s not just Patience who has a dark past and an unhappy tale: Ina, another shapeshifter, has an appalling family situation underneath an apparently content life. Her sister-in-law, Flora, was the cause of such unnecessary suffering because of her shallowness. The pastor’s wife, Charity, took the tale of the abused wife to a nasty place. And it was all believable, with not much hope or ray of sunshine at the end of the day.
This is a story that sucked me in right away. Of Sorrow and Such speaks about the hidden lives of women. Of what women have had to suffer in silence. Gilly is the only one who still seems to have some innocence, but she’s young—and Patience wants her to have a happy life, but doesn’t see how that happiness will take any shape except to marry a decent young man and be a wife. How do these women live? What obligations do they or should they have to protect and save each other when they are threatened? I could have easily disliked Patience for putting herself, at least hypothetically, ahead of everyone else, but really, what ties women together? Love and hope and hatred; shared misery and stolen moments of happiness.
I can’t fault much in this novella. While the story and the ending may be recognizable (this is a witch story, with the men of God coming to town for the burning), the writing was excellent. The characters, especially of Patience, and the dark tone made it refreshing and memorable. I was pleased to discover through the note at the end that previous stories featuring Patience and the other witch, Selke, have been published in two collections. They’re definitely on my list to track down now! I’m eager to explore more of Angela Slatter’s work.