This is my third Margo Lanagan short story collection, and once again her storytelling has really amazed me! I still have Red Spikes to read of her collections, but I think I am going to read her new novel, Sea Hearts, next as I haven't read any of her novels yet.
Some of her stories move me (in one case to tears), some confuse me, and some are clever, whilst all of them have me thinking about them. One thing I do find is that I often need a gap between one story and the next. I can't just read through them one after another as I need time to digest exactly what happened.
Here is a very brief description of the ten stories in this collection:
Singing My Sister Down - if there can only be one stand out story in a collection then this is it! Incredibly powerful and moving, this is a story that you could read over and over again and even with familiarity you would still be moved. As punishment for killing her husband, a young woman is sent out to the tar pits. Her family has time to say goodbye to her as she slowly drowns. We don't know why she did it. I certainly felt that it may have been in self defense. In the end, we don't really need to know why, because the story is powerful enough without having that additional information. Incredible.
My Lord's Man - Berry is Mullord's man through and through, and he knows that his wife isn't good enough for his boss. When Mullady disappears with what appears to be a band of gypsies, Berry accompanies Mullord to look for her amongst her people, expecting that Mullord will be furious with her. Instead he begins to see things differently.
Red Nose Day - A couple of snipers bring their own form of justice against the rich and powerful of their town, who all happen to dress as clowns. Powerful imagery and narrative - it was so vivid that I could almost feel the recoil of the gun.
Sweet Pippit - This story is told from the perspective of a group of elephants. When one of the elephants goes crazy and kills a human, the keeper is arrested and locked up. The elephants that are remaining go looking for their keeper. Lovely story
House of the Many - Dot was bought up under the strict rules of the Bard, on a kind of commune. When he comes of age he escapes to the city and finds a different kind of life, not realising what has been left behind.
Wooden Bride - To the surprise of her family, Matty Weir elects to follow the traditions of her city and become a bride. She is not marrying another person, it is more a religious tradition. It takes two years of learning about the traditions, she is dressed perfectly for the ceremony, but it doesn't all go to plan on the big day.
Earthly Uses - A young boy has been living with his abusive grandpa and his brow beaten grandma. She is the only one who has shown him any kindness. Now that she is on her deathbed, the boy is sent to get the angels to come, with surprising consequences.
Perpetual Light - A young woman attends her grandmother's funeral despite the danger that it poses to her health because the place where the funeral is to be held is contaminated. The world in this one is quite interesting - it seems to be an Australia of the future where the world is very polluted and everyone reliant on. If there is one story that didn't work for me as well as the others, then this would be it.
Yowlinin - This and the next one were the other stand outs for me. A young girl lives on the edge of society as a result of having lost her parents to the yowlinin plague when she was a very young girl. She has formed an attachment to the boy Harrow, who actually doesn't know she exists. When she sees evidence that the yowlinin are coming back, not everyone believes her.
Rite of Spring - There is a religious rite that must be performed each spring. With both his mother and his brother are ill, the job falls to an ill-prepared young man. No one believes that he can do it. He must find the strength with himself to endure and get the job done.
This book counts for the Aussie Author Challenge and the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
Black Juice is a book of breathtaking stories that defy boundaries. They are dazzling, ruthless, tender, fierce, unique - ten deeply moving stories from an exceptional author.