I was supposed to post my review of Mosaics on release day last week (May 1), but couldn't finish it before I flew off for my holiday.
So instead, I'll give you two reviews for one today!
First up is Mosaics 2, an anthology of brilliant women writing, followed by Women's Work, a hauntingly beautiful tale.
Mosaics 2: A Collection of Independent Women by Nina Perez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women, Mosaics 2 is a collection of stories, poetry, art and essays that talk about the vast undefinable experience of being a woman.
Painted Truths and Prayer Beads (Nillu Nasser Stelter) is the grudging meeting between local whites and their immigrant neighbours; explosive, angry, loving, understanding. Starting Over (Zen DiPietro) takes you to the stars in another story of immigration, another story of people seeking refuge from war and the devastation that it leaves in its wake. Sunshower (Kim Wells) takes you to the end of the world, where knowledge in a woman is deemed as witchcraft, haunting enough, until you reach Like Father (Audrey T. Carroll), the dark story of Andrea's meeting with the local rich hermit. Which is also why you don't follow strange men home, especially when there are really bad stories about him. This turns hauntingly beautiful (and sweet) in Durnushka (Nikki Richard). Forever an Other (Joan Brown) stirs up your blood for Mamie and Naomi and the way they're always outcasts for the colour of their eyes and skin. Rounding it all up is The Lion and the Dragonslayer (Jennifer R. Donohue), which puts a satisfied smile on your face, or at least mine.
There's much more to this anthology - these are just the ones that I loved the most, and obviously I love the fiction (sorry, poets!) - but maybe these are enough to make you want to read more.
Mosaics is unapologetically all about women and their experiences (real and imagined. I mean, sexism isn't real, is it? But dragons undoubtedly are...). It has a strongly feminist slant and isn't exactly all straight. Or abled. Or cis. Or white.
A good read, overall.
*Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Women's Work by Kari Aguila
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Even when women have taken over the world, fear lingers.
It is a deep-rooted fear of men. Not of the men they know, who they keep in their houses and make decisions for. But the fear of strange men; those without a controlling, subduing factor in their lives, prone to anger and violence. Because the sisterhood cannot conceive of any one man on his own who is good, and kind, and loving. They teach nonviolence as one of the main tenets of the Habits of Humanity, but when it comes down to it, these women are as capable of violence as the next man.
When a strange man appears on her doorstep with a very sick boy in tow, Kate must decide whether to give in to her fear and chase them away, or to help them. But her decisions, as slowly, as carefully, as distrustfully, as she makes them has repercussions on everyone: herself, her family, the man and his son, her community, the policies and laws that guide their new lives.
Women's Work starts off a little choppily, giving a glimpse through the main protagonist's eyes of the changed world that she lives in; it's not until the middle of the chapter, when she reaches the market, that names are assigned and identities established. Kari Aguila guides you gently into this strange, inconceivable world, where women finally have the upper hand. She's not all complimentary - Patrice and some of the women hold very extreme positions; Iris has her issues and has single-handedly built this community to where it is, but she is sympathetic enough to listen; Rhia and Sarah bring thoughtful, careful balance.
But at the core of it, as all our lives must be, it is Kate's own decisions and Kate's own heart that must guide her. She is wary, distrustful, and so is the stranger at her doorstep - him more so, because he has much more to lose. The need to value people as people is as urgent and important as ever, whether they are male or female. And though Kate is comfortable with the new society she lives in now, she also wonders - what's in store for her son? Will Jonah be able to be the doctor he wants to be? What's the terrifying age when he suddenly changes from an innocent child into a dangerous man? No one knows yet. They are the pioneers.
Aguila writes in third person, present tense, forming a very dream-like story; here, but not here, happening, but happened. It slows you down in your reading, helping you to savour the thoughts that are being thrown up. It's not entirely to my preference, but it works, for this story at least. It centres you on Kate's fears, the way she mistrusts people, even herself, the way she gradually opens up, the betrayal she feels over and over again.
If there's anything that doesn't work, it's the way that the ending feels rushed. I would have liked to see a little of what happens in between chapter 20 and the epilogue-like chapter 21, instead of a few summarising paragraphs.
* Note: I received a review copy via Edelweiss.
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