09 April 2011

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

I almost didn't make it through the beginning of this book. It was tough. Really tough. The first 50 or so pages deal with incest, forced abortion, gang rape, infanticide, and suicide. Hefty, icky stuff. I'll be honest, I wasn't sure if the payoff would be worth it. I'm glad I stuck it out, though, because the rest of the book was almost free of these issues and a pretty wonderful story. And yes, it really did need that setup, so I don't even mind the beginning much. Liga is an amazing character. Even as she's shaped by her history of sexual abuse she isn't consumed by it for the entire book, and I like how she grows and changes without loosing sight of who she used to be. It's also pretty great how she always retains a childlike quality that reminds you how sheltered and abused she was as a child and yet she always strives to rise above and do the right thing. Branza and Urdda are well constructed too. They are unique without being shaped by their conception, which is a hard thing to do when dealing with such heavy material. I like how they each have predictable, unique reactions to the events around them. I also really liked the overall moral of the story: no matter how hard your life is you have to grow up and live it sometime or things will be harder for you later. A good lesson for us all to learn.

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