Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
Expected release date: November 9, 2021
Recommended: yes, to Ava
For a quick read that ends way creepier than it begins, for a short puzzle that’s brilliant once you know what to look for, for a story I’d describe as “eerie”
Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.
It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.
But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…
But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?
I think you’ll like this one (and it comes out tomorrow!). It’s one of those stories that starts out normal, then gets kind of strange, then subtly creepy, and then smashes headlong into WTF territory when you’re too far in to stop. Since it’s so short, the effect is doubled! And of course the mystery-ish aspect of trying to get a better sense of what exactly is going on in Acadia Gardens will definitely keep you going.
Alright… I’m… a little embarrassed about how long it took me to figure this one out. It wasn’t until I was basically bashed over the head with it that I realized. But let me tell you, once I realized? I suddenly saw all the I had already read with clear eyes, and understanding rushed in carrying a flurry of admirable details that snapped together. Suddenly all those little moments that had seemed odd to me — but I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on — made sense! Each click came with a tiny spark of satisfaction at the knowing. And damn if that isn’t just such a perfect mirror of Sophia’s experience in this.
The horror comes from when I realized what Sophia couldn’t yet know. Man, when I as the reader know something that the character doesn’t? It really gets me riled up! It’s like the equivalent of shouting at the characters in a slasher film because I know the killer is behind the door they’re about to open, but they don’t know, and I just have to watch helplessly while it happens! The grim knowledge is the thing.
This is a short story (which I didn’t realize at first, so just a heads up that this is a quick read), and yet it packs so much into it. Around the middle, I admit I was getting a little fuzzy with it because the strangeness and the (deliberately) unclear writing was wearing me out. And then I came to the moment where everything made sense and I was reinvigorated!
Here’s a tiny hint, where if you know about this one thing, you likely will put this all together fast than I did:
- the Bible.
I got this one from NetGalley (thanks Tor!), but as always you know these are my thoughts. 🙂
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