“Teeth, Tapestries” by Alex Dally MacFarlane
Reviewed by Anne Crookshanks
Written with terse description of a powerful and possibly overwhelming setting, Alex Dally MacFarlane’s “Teeth, Tapestries” is a survival story set in a remote island fishing village that is slowly being depopulated. Whether by the she-monster of legend or something closer to home and its troubled hearts is the question. While the winds howl and her husband rages, shouting against the teeth of the gale and the teeth of his stalker, a woman in labor is shielded by a visiting midwife who discovers a vital part of the past is stitched into salt-stained tapestries. “Teeth, Tapestries” has shades of a feminist Beowulf—though the monster doesn’t emerge in the ordinary way—and calls to mind the reasons for the Scottish island St. Kilda’s inevitable abandonment.
“Abere and the Poisoner” by Jonathan Edelstein
What happens when a poisoner needs to find a swamp witch, or demon as some call her? In Jonathan Edelstein’s “Abere and the Poisoner,” a poet seeks the swamp witch Abere, who holds a rare orchid that brings dreams and is said to be a poison as well. Set in the Pacific islands, possibly Fiji, the style is a sort of lyrical, meandering talk-story, as the unseen narrator keeps the poet company while he awaits the swamp witch. Based on Melanesian legend, this story of a “wild woman” has its predictable elements—not necessarily a bad thing at all for folklore—but it does encircle the reader stealthily in its telling. As it is based on oral tradition, this is good choice for the accompanying podcast, narrated by M.K. Hobson.
Anne Crookshanks is the nom de review of a librarian who studied anthropology at the college voted best choice for Hogwarts fans.