During my daughter’s first post-transplant bout of tummy flu, I learned that it’s best for parents of transplant kids to just keep a hospital overnight bag packed in the closet. (I know the audience for this useful tip is very small, but I’m putting it out there anyway.) My bag of course includes books for both of us as well as toothbrushes and changes of clothes. I’ve been slowly working on this short story collection, leaving it in the bag and reading a story or two during my daughter’s hospital visits, which are very happily increasingly rare. Now that it’s done, I think I need to find another book in a similar vein to have at the ready.
Water by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson.
This is the first of the three Elementals collections. Both authors also collaborated on Fire and, after McKinley turned had one too many short story ideas turn into a novel, Dickinson finished the series with Earth and Air in single volume. (That’s the only one I haven’t read and the obvious choice for my next short story book.) There are three stories by each author, all providing strong characters interacting with (or being) some water-related mythological creature. There are mermaids, kraken, sea serpents and water horses. One of McKinley’s stories involves a person from modern-day like-Britain trying to believe enough to journey to the Damar of ancient legend. As I’ve come to expect, McKinley tells lyrical stories with lots of descriptive backgrounds where the characters are able to find happiness. Dickinson’s stories are just as beautiful but darker, here featuring an abused girl in one story and doomed lovers whose dive into the ocean brings up a kraken from the depths in another. I’m being minimal here partly because I read this over the course of a couple of years and partly because I’m short on time and would like to keep moving with my reviews, but these stories really do make me think of a necklace strung with individual, beautiful pearls. They manage to mix serious topics and old myths to come up with something beautiful and fresh.