I’m back, with two spring releases that I didn’t care for, but that I recognize could very well work for someone else.
What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine
Published by Harper
Publication date: May 8, 2018
The family of women in What Should Be Wild are cursed. They are the Blakelys and they go back generations to 400 A.D. when the first, the young Alys, is slain by conquerors. There are seven and range from Emma who is only five and was left in the forest to be cured of a birthmark on her face her mother found disfiguring to Helen who hung herself to avoid an arranged marriage to a much older man to Kathryn who enjoyed sex in a way that was completely unacceptable for the times. Each died in the forest near the family’s estate, making it a place avoided by the villagers. The forest is their haven, even if it is a boring one where nothing ages or dies.
Here, where time flows like honey, where their own deaths have died, the women need and they need, and it frightens them.
Into this sorrowful coven comes Maisie, born in modern times, who continued to gestate in her mother’s body after her mother died in an accident. Once she’s born, it’s immediately apparent that Maisie is different. Very different. Any touch from her skin to that of another living thing kills it. A second touch revives it. Her father, isolated on their estate looks at his daughter as a grand experiment, keeping her hands and limbs covered from birth and documenting her development as she comes to understand her power.
Maisie’s appearance is matched by the appearance, within the forest, of a young sleeping girl who seems to be Maisie’s doppelganger. Why she has appeared and what it means is something the forest women can’t figure out. At the same time, 16-year-old Maisie faces her own travails in the outside world when her power is discovered and believed to be the answer to a larger cosmological phenomenon.
All of this would work except there is a lot of stage to be set and author Julia Fine’s desire to explain every aspect of every scene causes the book to drag. What Should Be Wild is a grand and gruesome allegory. Each of the Blakely women is killed or escapes to the forest due to some societal imposition on her nature as a woman. Whether it is her looks, her sexuality, her value only as a piece of property, she is not accepted. She is feared. And while I appreciate inventive fiction that unpacks the historical subjugation of women, What Should be Wild becomes too heavy handed for me.
Alternative Remedies for Loss by Joanna Cantor
Published by Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: May 8, 2018
From the title you can tell Alternative Remedies for Loss is going to be about dealing with grief and it is. Olivia’s mother died four months ago and her father is already dating someone new. That’s one way. Olivia, starts randomly charging men for sex. I guess that’s another. As for her father’s decision she’s not alone in her anger and disbelief, especially when Dad invites the woman along on a trip to India that Olivia and her mother had planned for the family.
There’s a whole lot of awkward in this novel and it just keeps going. Olivia embarks on an odd relationship with one of the men she solicits who also happens to be a client at the production company where she works and when it ends so does her career. She visits friends, does some drugs, has more anonymous sex, and tries yoga.
There are aspects about dealing with grief and with family in general in Alternative Remedies for Loss that I could relate to, which is why I gave it two stars, but the tone never hit the mark for me. In short, I don’t believe loss is Olivia’s problem. She feels like a young woman who makes really bad, thoughtless choices, and while I completely empathize with how grief can manifest itself in a myriad of different ways for different people, I don’t buy it in her case. I lost interest at about 60% of the way through this book, but am willing to admit this may absolutely be an “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. I didn’t get where the novel was going nor did I care.