Schanoes blends contemporary and historical fiction with a fine layer of folklore-flavored fantasy in Burning Girls and Other Stories. These stories made me shiver, made me thrill, made me think; I really enjoyed spotting the references to punk classics in them. I really enjoyed this collection so much that I would happily recommend it to fans of Angela Carter and Daniel Mallory Ortberg, who like to write on the dark side of folk tales.
Some of the standouts in this collection include:
“Among the Thorns.” This story leads out the collection with a heart-breaking tale of long-burning revenge. The protagonist of the story hears that not only was her father murdered by villagers while on his peddling route, but that those same villagers gleefully retell the story of the murder to show their anti-Semitic cred. I love a story of Jewish revenge.
“Rats.” Writing about addiction is hard, especially when writers want readers to empathize the addicts. Here, Schanoes turns the torment of addiction into a story of a girl born with rats clawing at her from inside who eventually meets a boy who also has rats inside. This horrific modern folk tale is further blended with a true crime story that punk fans will instantly recognize.
“Emma Goldman Takes Tea with Baba Yaga.” In another story that blends actual history with folklore, we see the anarchist Emma Goldman fight against despair in post-revolutionary Russia. She had agitated all her life for change, workers’ rights, and free love—but she never made much headway in the United States and the revolution had gone sour by the time she was exiled to Russia. One day, after going for a ramble in the woods, Goldman is offered an extraordinary deal by Baba Yaga. Will Goldman give up hope for a kind of shadow power?
I really enjoyed this collection, even if many of the stories were downright frightening. I will certainly keep an eye out for future collections from Veronica Schanoes.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.