Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the first online issue of the Algonquin Area Writer’s Group Literary eZine! This space is a venue and showcase for a group of people from various backgrounds, ages and personalities who have two things in common: their draw to the written word and their tendency to congregate at the Algonquin Area Public Library on the last Thursday of every month.
In this issue, we explore hereditary traits we’d rather escape and extramarital relationships. We try in vain to extinguish the words of former flames. We cross country and culture to play with children in a vibrant Indian garden. We also get to know Ayelet Waldman, author of the recent book Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace and decide if we’d like to give Kim Harrison’s latest book, Once Dead, Twice Shy, a try.
A Gradual Erosion
by Liz Hum
Claire hated her mother.
As the two women sat opposite each other across the kitchen table, sipping their respective cups of coffee, Claire focused especially on hating the wrinkle running from the right side of her mother’s lips-down to her jaw. It was more of a canyon, really, carved by decades of repetitive smug expressions. Since the wrinkle was most pronounced when Claire’s mother pursed her lips in condescension, Claire assumed her mother had been a bitch for decades, if not her whole life.
Three minutes ago, her mother had said something that made the canyon sink down so far, it had practically touched the woman’s skull. And now, three minutes later, Claire was still smoldering, staring at it. Fixating upon it. Projecting all the fire she was unable to breathe into the hateful crease and hoping her mother could feel it burn. Her mother glanced up over her newspaper and noticed Claire still poised for a fight.
“You’re just going to have to grow up, Claire, and realize there are other opinions out there besides your own,” she chastised with a patronizing brow. The wrinkle, snugly perched upon her mother’s face, winked at her. Claire, as always, couldn’t resist the double dare.
Unfortunately, “Whatever!” was all she could come up with, as her vocabulary had been consumed by angst. That was how the wrinkle got her every time. It would absorb all of Claire’s anger, swallow it between its two folds of skin, then spit it back out into Claire’s face, causing her to squint, stumble and ultimately say something stupid. This pleased both her mother and the wrinkle. Claire suspected that once she’d fled the room, they would laugh at her together, having been in cahoots the whole time. They were a gang. Two against one. Together, they intimidated Claire and it wasn’t fair because she wasn’t allowed to speak to her mother in the same way her mother was allowed to speak to her. And it wasn’t fair at all that the wrinkle was entitled to the same privileges of berating her, just because it was attached to her mother’s face. Claire was old enough to speak up to her mother, but not independent enough to stand up to her. Every time she tried, she had inevitably slipped and fell into the ravine of humiliation on the right side of those sneering lips.
Those sneering lips had infuriated Claire this morning. So much, in fact, that she, now five minutes later, leapt from her seat in a dramatic fit of protest and pushed her chair back in hard. The backrest slammed into the table, sending her mother’s coffee cup rattling off of its lacquered surface and onto her lap.
“Damn it, Claire! That’s scalding hot!” Her mother screeched and, almost immediately, the wrinkle retreated. It vanished, just like that. Claire was set to lose another battle of wills, and here she had won. It was her turn to watch her mother scramble and stutter as she frantically tried to sop up all the spilled coffee with a dishrag.
And where was her pugnacious little wrinkle? It had spread out and hid in the safety of her mother’s cheek. It wasn’t so tough now. As a matter of fact, Claire almost felt sorry for the woman, having been betrayed by the snide thing. She watched as her mother furrowed her brow and let her guard down, temporarily exposing all of her other wrinkles, as she mopped away. One day her mother’s face was going to be full of wrinkles that can’t hide. She will have so many lines on her face that will always be there for her; the wrinkle will be lost in them. Claire just looked down at her pitiful mother with an unconscious, but familiar, purse on her own lips, unaware of the small dimple forming on the right side of them, straining toward her jaw.
Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison
Reviewed by Lisa Damian Kidder
Kim Harrison’s new young adult supernatural fantasy, Once Dead, Twice Shy, will be released at the end of the this month. Harrison is the author of the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series featuring witch and private detective, Rachel Morgan. Once Dead, Twice Shy marks her first full-length novel geraed toward the young adult audience, though the prequel to the book can be found in the short story collection Prom Nights From Hell.
In addition to its target audience age-range, the other distinguishing feature that sets this novel apart from Harrison’s Hollows series is that the characters are all new. Rather than witches, vampires, and pixies as main characters, Once Dead, Twice Shy revolves around angels, reapers, and timekeepers. The characters serve as a cutting edge variant in the paranormal fiction genre, a refreshing introduction to mystical beings far different from the vampires and witches we’ve come to consider commonplace in fantasy novels these days.
As an interesting twist, the story opens with main character, Madison Avery, already dead. In addition to being the new kid in her high school, she had the unfortunate luck of getting scythed by a reaper at her junior prom. Though being dead might slow down most girls, Avery still manages to snag the loyalty of a new friend and potential romantic interest while battling some of the most powerful forces in the universe and still remaining true to who she is as an individual. As far as heroines in young adult novels go, Madison Avery is much more like-able and inspiring than most with her punk rock style and strong sense of self. She is also able to navigate some rather grey areas in the battle between good and evil.
Harrison masterfully creates imagery and symbolism that enhances both the story and the character development. Some examples of this can be found in the layers of angel hierarchy, the guardian angels with their affection for bells, and the deathly blackwings being perceived as crows to the average human eye. As always, Harrison manages to build tension and suspense amidst the action and fast-paced plot.
“My illusionary pulse quickened. The more anxious I became, the more my mind relied on memories of being alive. Something was about to happen, and I didn’t know what to do. What if that beautiful girl at the wheel was the reaper?”
There were moments, however brief, where I wondered if I had met some of these characters before. The light and dark angels brandishing their colorful swords made me flashback to a scene from the book and TV miniseries, The Fallen. The guardian angel character, Grace, with her sassy limerick humor and small yet forbidding persona reminded me slightly of Jenks from Harrison’s Hollows series.
Despite these momentary distractions, Harrison remained true to her proven ability, crafting a world in which it is believable that these characters would really walk amongst us. Furthermore, she convincingly developed the main character, Madison Avery, who faces many of the same real-life issues that any teenage girl would face, while learning that the fate of the world literally lies with her.
For true bibliophiles, the hard cover version with its lilac angel wing engraving hidden under the dust sleeve is a must have.