Worm Fiddling Nocturne in the Key of a Broken Heart
Burrow Press (SEPTEMBER) Softcover $16 (200pp) 978-1-941681-71-8
Kimberly Lojewski’s short stories meld the ordinary and the fantastical with a dark, melancholic edge.
The collection is often delightfully subversive. Written as modern fairy tales, most of the stories center on a female protagonist; the narratives are both charming and, at times, grotesque. Rarely do they end in neat happily-ever-afters.
In “The Church of the Living God & Rescue Home for Orphans,” misfit girls—born with abilities as varied and bizarre as housing a sun inside the body, squeezing precious gems from their eyes, and crying blood—are cared for by nuns who attempt to marry them off to princes. “The Ballad of Sparrow Foot” includes a menagerie of half-human monsters who long to be set free from the nightly stares of the crowds. The idyllic life of a village full of puppets is shattered by scandal in “The Decline of a Professional Marionette.”
Woven throughout the stories is a theme of lost innocence. “One for the Crow” takes a dark turn when a young girl named Talulah is seduced by the mysterious Lucien, a boy working her father’s cornfields. A marionette, Cressida, also faces seduction from Aengus, an alluring Irish marionette. Hannah is called away from the shelter of her grandmother’s home by the sinister Rusalki in “When the Water Witches Come Dancing for Their Supper.” Despite the whimsy on the surface, a strong current of wistfulness runs underneath, binding the individual stories together.
The prose is filled with evocative imagery, much of it focused on water in its many forms. Love and reverence for nature is evident. “Thinking Like a Hog Deer in the Himalayas” is especially panoramic with its depictions of moth girls soaring through the snowy mountains as they learn to fly.
Often teetering on the boundary between dream and nightmare, this collection is a satisfying and eerie journey into wild realms. MEAGAN LOGSDON