Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Novella Files: Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Subject: Catherynne M. Valente. Comfort Me With Apples [Tor.com Publishing, 2021]

Accolades: N/A

Genre: Fantasy

Executive Summary: 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? (From Goodreads)

Assessment: Reviewing a book that’s power largely relies on not having the reader spoiled is tricky. Comfort Me With Apples is such a book. It’s a novella that stealthily wraps itself around you like a snake. You feel growing tension, but you can’t locate its source. And once you feel its full-forced pressure, having you in its grip, you’re completely breathless and wrecked. Catherynne M. Valente has crafted a story that eases its reader into a tale with engaging lyricism and an ominous atmosphere, reaching high intensity with brilliant reveals and conclusion.

Comfort Me With Apples is a quick read. It’s novella-length but its wordsmithery is so honeyed that it breezes by quicker than any book this size I’ve read. It finishes in a wholly satisfying way, but even so, I couldn’t help but look back at the pages and hope to be immersed in it forever. For those who’ve read Catherynne Valente, it’s no surprise that every sentence is sublime. While the story has a tall order by being conjoined with writing with colossal intimidation, it more than rises to the occasion. It’s layered, paced and escalated skillfully, and has more than enough subtext for scores of analyses.

For those wondering why I’ve written mountains of praise and almost zero story details, it’s to not ruin the experience. Comfort Me With Apples largely hooked me because its unique and enigmatic atmosphere/setting not only submerged me in its pages, but propelled me to find out how everything fit together. I thought a bunch of the strange happenings couldn’t possibly dovetail into a satisfying conclusion. I was wrong. The twists are of biblical proportions with the sweet and tart taste of an apple. If you take a bite, you’re more than likely to end up devouring the entire thing.

Score: 9/10

POSTED BY: Sean Dowie - Screenwriter, editor, lover of all books that make him nod his head and say, "Neat!”