The Book of the Unnamed Midwife–recommendation

Recently, I read The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, and its sequel, The Book of Etta, by Meg Ellison and was so impressed that I wanted to recommend these two outstanding books to those of you who love dystopian/postapocalyptic fiction, and strong female characters. Ms. Elison’s writing is convincing, conveys a strong sense of place and time, and portrays realistic characters, both good and bad, dealing with a changed world. These two books are the author’s first, but I hope not her last.

The following 2 editorial reviews were taken from Publishers Weekly:

Re The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere 1):

“Elison’s gripping and grim first novel, which won the Philip K. Dick award in its previous small press publication, tells the story of an unnamed woman who survives a plague that wipes out most of humankind in just weeks, leaving 10 male survivors for every woman. The story is beautifully written in a stripped down, understated way, though frequently gruesome in its depiction of rapes, murders, and still births. The protagonist, who sometimes calls herself Karen, or Dusty, or Jane, is beautifully realized as a middle-aged, bisexual woman with considerable skills, an indomitable will, and great adaptability, though she suffers considerably and is far from superwoman. A prologue and an epilogue set long after the events of the main narrative (and reminiscent of the concluding chapter of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid ’s Tale) hint at a positive future, leaving the reader with a glimmer of optimism in the midst of despair.”

Re The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere 2):

“In this gritty sequel to her Philip K. Dick Award-winning The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Elison returns to her postapocalyptic American Midwest milieu, but far in the future, when the midwife protagonist of the first novel is largely a legend. The plague that destroyed human civilization lingers, killing women in childbirth, fetuses in the womb, and newborns. Far more boys survive than girls. The various pocket communities that have survived have found their own ways of coping with the gender imbalance. In matriarchal Nowhere, women collect men into “hives.” In nearby Jeff City, castrati live as women, giving the illusion of gender balance. In Estiel, formerly St. Louis, a monstrous dictator known as the Lion raids other communities for their women and girls. Etta—or Eddy, as he calls himself outside the confines of Nowhere—is a young transgender man who can’t find a place for himself in a world where people with wombs are classified as either baby-making machines or midwives. He’s a wanderer and explorer by nature and has no interest in any other role. Elison continues to startle her readers with unexpected gender permutations and fascinating relationships worked out in front of a convincingly detailed landscape.”

Gender issues aside, these two books are engrossing reads. To me, the protagonists’ sexual orientations are only a small part of Elison’s two novels, and have little bearing on what makes them great stories. I highly recommend reading both, though each can stand alone. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a third Road to Nowhere.

You can keep up to date on Ms. Elison at her website at: www.megelison.com.

Click on the covers to view or buy on Amazon.

Mistress Youth

Youth is a fickle mistress
Batting her clear green eyes
Whispering in your ear…
I will stay with you forever

Naively, you believe her
Slug through the weeks
And months and years
Thinking she will always be there

You live your days for others
Instead of yourself and her, while
Work and family obligations
Mindlessly gorge on time perennial

Time you should have spent loving
Time you should have spent living
Time you should have spent just being
Time you should have spent with her

Until one morning you wake up alone
She has left you for someone younger
Leaving you old and worn out and used up
No good to yourself or anyone else

You see her out with her new love
And grow angry and resentful and hard
Hating her for abandoning you
Hating her for being happy without you

Then slowly you come to realize
That she did not leave you
You left her, long ago, standing alone
Beneath the glow of an eighties moon

Photo from Pixabay 

Saving Grace–part 5, conclusion 

Part 1 here

I knew what It was up to: It was trying to scare Grace and get her to move from between It and Penny. Grace was of the light and that blacker-than-black unthing couldn’t touch her.

Again, they did their dance–It moved left, Grace moved left, It moved right, Grace moved right. Then one of Its great wings sliced down toward Grace and I hollered and Caleb hollered and Will hollered, all three of us thinking that she’d be flattened under that slab of black. But when it touched Grace’s head, the wing burst into flames.

With another roar that shook what was left of my little house, It pulled back the blazing wing into Itself, snuffing out the fire. Then, It folded, and folded again, and kept on folding until It was no bigger than a sheet of paper, and slid in a blacker-than-black square across the floor away from Grace. Continue reading

Silly Girl

once upon a time…

there was a silly girl
who didn’t see
the mistake she made
by trusting he

she gave her heart
she gave her all
and he tripped her up
just to watch her fall

he felt big by
making her small
used sarcasm and anger
kept her back to the wall

he didn’t listen
he didn’t see
that she stopped loving him
wanted only to be free

now he’s sorry
but it came too late
for too long he sowed meanness
and now he reaps her hate

Saving Grace–part 4

Part 1 here     Part 2  here      Part 3 here

“What was it, child?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but–but Caleb saw it too.” Will turned his face toward his brother. “Didn’t you?”

Caleb shrugged. “Dunno.” His eyes looked a little wild and boogery too. “I guess…something…” He looked back at the night, then sidled up close to me. I put my arm around him and he pressed close.

On the other side of the yard fence, the corn patch lay still and black. Nothing moved amongst the corn stalks that I could tell. But there was something there, all right; I could feel it. And Penny did too. Her hair bristled from her head to the tip of her tail, and she was whining and growling, both at the same time.

“Let’s go inside,” Grace said softly. “Now.” She took my elbow, and with Caleb and Will tucked up against me, guided us all up the steps with a steady hand.

When both my feet were on the porch, I took a good look at my jellyfish-gal, and it came as no surprise that she was now pret’near as tall as me. And Isabelle’s tee shirt barely covered enough to keep her decent. I reckoned I’d better hunt up something to cover her bottom part ’cause at the rate she was going, by morning she’d be full growed.

Grace reached around me and pulled open the screen door. “We’ll be all right in the house, Nana,” she said. “It doesn’t like the light.”

***

It took me a spell to get to sleep that night, and it weren’t because every light in the house was blazing. I kept thinking about It what was out in the corn. And Grace. What was she and where had she come from? And what was It that’d come down after her? And why? Continue reading

Saving Grace–part 3

Part 1 here         Part 2 here

Will didn’t argue with me. All and all he was a good boy, Caleb too. They were a handful for Isabelle though, what with her having to work all the time and no husband to help out. Funny how a man can just walk out on his family and never look back. That’s what Jack Fisher had done though: he’d gotten on a plane to California and called Isabelle on his cell phone somewhere over Colorado and said he was leaving her.

Worry lines creased Isabelle’s young face, worry lines she shouldn’t have, and I hated Jack Fisher all over again.

“Let me help you with that, child.” I reached for one of the bags of groceries.

“I’ve got them, Nana.” Isabelle moved past me and into the kitchen. She plopped the bags down on the countertop and started putting things away.

I felt a tug on my apron and looked down at Will’s upturned face. “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Caleb too.”

While Isabelle bustled about the kitchen, I made a pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid, and the boys took their glasses and went out on the back porch. They liked it outside here; there weren’t no outside to speak of at their apartment in the city.

“I’ve got a favor to ask, Nana,” Isabelle said, looking out the window over the sink.

I took two glasses of Kool-Aid to the table and sat down. “Anything you need, all you gotta do is speak up. You know that.”

A breeze sidled through the window screen, ruffling Isabelle’s blonde hair. She closed her eyes and smiled. “It smells so clean out here, the grass, the trees, even the dust from the road.” The smile slipped from her face. “Not like the city where all you smell is gasoline fumes and baking asphalt.”

“You’re welcome to come back home anytime you take a notion. You know that too.”

Pap and me had taken Isabelle in after the car wreck that’d killed Josh and his wife. This old farm was the only home she’d ever known.

“I can’t live way out here, Nana, I have to work.” She opened her eyes and turned to me. “And that’s why I’m here, why I need a favor.”

“Come tell me about it.”

And she did. She told me about the job interview she had set up with a company two states over, a company that’d pay her twice what she was making at the law firm she was working at now. “Marshall is a nice town, Nana,” she said. “And I could have a nice house with plenty of room for the boys and a big yard for them to play in. And a place for you to–”

“Hold on now.” I’d heard this kind of talk before, and I knew that Isabelle meant well, but I wasn’t leaving my home. Me and Penny weren’t going nowhere. “How does this have anything to do with needing a favor from me?” Continue reading

Wednesday’s Child

I was not born to be happy…

No bright star shown down on me
When I was dropped headfirst into the world
Red-faced, kicking, screaming
And placed in my mother’s arms—
The only true home I’ve ever known

Instead, a dark star witnessed my birth
Stepped out of hell’s black hole
Took me in its cold bony hands
And christened me “Wednesday’s Child”
Damning me to a life full of woe

Not for me fair of face or full of grace
A clumsy witch with frizzy red hair
Who mounts her broom
And beneath an alabaster moon
Runs wild with the night

Night understands, night knows
What beats inside my heart
What tangles and twists my soul
It doesn’t question, doesn’t judge
Night is my beloved familiar

There’s a certain comfort in failure
A happiness inside misery
A pleasure in absent feelings
For a Wednesday’s Child
Who has serenely accepted her fate

For…
I was not born to be happy

Photo from Pixabay

Saving Grace–part 2

Part 1 here

And I could see…

I picked up the flashlight and shined it full on the jellyfish.

I could see inside the thing; its skin or hide or whatever was transparent. Red threads ran all through it, spoking out from a dark spot in its center. And the dark spot moved. Stopped. Moved. It was–

“Well, I’ll be…”

The jellyfish had a heart.

I reckoned whatever else it might be, it was a living being. And the poor thing was cold.

I pulled off my apron and wrapped the thing up in it.

Then somehow I got back up on my feet with the jellyfish snugged in the crook of my arm. And holding the flashlight in that hand and steadying myself on the cane gripped in my other, I made it out of the woods, across the rocky ground, back through the corn patch, up the steps and into the kitchen without so much as a misstep. Now, if I’d been a Godly woman I would’ve thanked Him for seeing me safely home; but since God had let that drunk jackass run over Josh and kill him when he was just twenty-seven years old, I didn’t thank Him for nothing no more.

Penny close at my heels, I passed straight through the dark kitchen into the equally dark front room and plopped down in my recliner. After spending the better part of a day in a hot kitchen, then traipsing about in the woods, I was worn smack-dab out.

The house was too warm but I didn’t feel like getting back up and switching on the fan. ‘Course it was most likely best that I didn’t anyway; the blue-eyed jellyfish still felt coolish. Continue reading