Reviews: The Beauty and The Bridge

Beauty coverThis time I am reviewing two works: a novella, The Beauty by Aliya Whitely; and a short story, The Bridge by Angela D. Mitchell. Both are distinguished by highly original, unusual storytelling and beautiful prose.

In The Beauty by Aliya Whitely, a group of men and boys who have escaped their failing city gather around the fire each night to listen to their stories in the Valley of the Rocks. The women who came with them have one by one died.

Nate, the storyteller, brings secrets back from the woods. His tales are a force for good in the community and help sustain the group emotionally and spiritually. William rules the group with youth and strength, but how long can that last? And what about Uncle Ted, who spends so much time out in the woods?

The women’s graves have been overtaken by fungal growths, fields of mushrooms that take on the form of the women buried beneath. And when the growth transforms the dead, or replace them as new beings, the group is faced with the dilemma of accepting or rejecting these strange creatures.

Confronted with the outcome of a relationship that is embraced, the men discover they are pregnant and have to make the biggest decision of their lives. The birth process itself has to be one of the most bizarre and arresting elements of the tale, reminding us not only how extraordinary birth in our own world is, but also that we should never take anything about it for granted.

Tackling sexual politics and, more directly, sex itself (between couples utterly alien to one another in profound ways), as well as exploring questions about the nature of love and friendship, gabapentin 300 mg for dogs where to buy from grief and loss, The Beauty is nothing short of brilliant. If you enjoy weird tales, creeping horror and great characters, this short work has it all.

A while after I read The Beauty, I learned from the publisher that the work has been placed on the James Tiptree honors list and nominated for the Saboteur and Shirley Jackson awards. Well deserved, too.

The BridgeThe Bridge: a Troll’s Tale of Blood, Guilt and Love is a brilliant short story by Angela D. Mitchell. In it a young man tormented by guilt goes to a bridge to end his life, only to find an ancient and merciless evil lurking in the shadows beneath, a she-troll named Mariantha.

Of the bridge, Mariantha says, “You’d never know by looking at it that something truly horrible lies beneath. A thing that knows what your dreams are and will make them all come true. Something that will seduce you and charm you and lick your eyelids and smile into your hair and then eat you up so there’s nothing left…”

Told from the point of view of the troll herself, we experience along with her the hunger and despair that encompasses her small world. But this particular troll is also full of acid wit and mordant observations about humanity as well as her own plight. She is both scary and rather wonderful all at once. Will her victim/hero save her, or will a transformation take place that changes everything?

The Bridge is a contemporary take on timeless tale of fantasy, horror, and love, and something to which the great Angela Carter might have been happy to put her name.

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