“The Animal Women (Part 2)” by Alix E. Harrow
Reviewed by Martha Burns
[Editor’s note: To read the review-in-progress of the first part of this story, please go here.]
“The Animal Women (Part 2)” continues the story of Candis and her attempts to counter the racism of 1968 Kentucky while also forging a relationship with the shape shifters in the woods. Alix E. Harrow hits all of the plot points one would anticipate—the white residents of Candis’s town agree they should fight the colored women in the woods, a bigoted white man tries to rape Candis, the animal women intervene, and the story ends with Candis coming into her own. The degree to which one enjoys the story has very much to do with whether one is tired of the tropes as they play out, which is purely a matter of the reader’s taste. In Subterranean #4, the special issue on science fiction clichés, editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden remarks that “Cliches are only cliches if they bother us” (38). Harrow crafts sentences with great care, and the plot points, while predictable, may seem either a satisfying realization of the implicit promises the author makes in the early paragraphs of the story or something the reader has seen too much of. I firmly believe a good writer both makes early promises and keeps them (I believe twist endings deserve pride of place in cliché hell), yet the question remains whether the trope of white women or, in this instance, a white girl finding herself through her relationship with strong women of color is a fantasy we can all let go of.