Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sunday: Kelly Link’s “Swans”
August 21, 2011, 8:42 am
Filed under: Story Sundays | Tags: , , , ,

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Always short stories, always ones available online for free.

Over the winter when I wanted some Kelly Link, I had to go for rereading. Link has never produced stories the way James Patterson produces novels, but it’s been especially hard to find new fiction by her recently. Thank heavens, Bookslut linked to a new story of hers that just came out, “Swans.” It’s worth the wait, especially when you read about why she hasn’t been publishing stories. (I’ve linked just to part one of Link’s story about her daughter. She did it as a two-part guest post and unfortunately, the site that hosted part two appears to have shut down.)

“Swans” captures, in spare prose, what it is to be a teenager and to be in mourning. Link’s narrator, Emma, has lost her mother and her voice. She lives in a castle with her father and brothers, she is working on finishing a quilt that her mother started, and she has her suspicions about the woman her father has chosen to marry.

My future stepmother didn’t eat much dinner, but she had three helpings of dessert. This is when I first became suspicious that she was magic—a witch, or else under an enchantment. Witches and people under spells, magic people, always have sweet tooths. My fairy godfather carries around sugar cubes in his pockets and stirs dozens of them in his coffee, or else just eats them plain, like a horse. And he never gets cavities.

Emma is right, of course, in thinking that there’s something not normal about her new stepmother, and there’s a certain joy in watching this birdlike woman walk around the family’s castle, turning Emma’s brothers into swans for making too much noise. Only Emma is safe, because she can’t talk – and it will be up to her to restore everyone, which Link captures in a wonderful moment of girl power/reasons to pay attention to your high school librarian:

My fairy godfather is never around when you need him. This is why it’s important to develop good research skills, and know how to find your way around a library. If you can’t depend on your fairy godfather, at least you can depend on the card catalog.

Read “Swans” online

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