Book Review: Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters (2018)

January 9th, 2018 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Walters is at her best when she’s playing Frankenstein with fairy tale tropes.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. Trigger warning for violence against women and suicide.)

Once upon a time there was a monster. This is how they tell you the story starts. This is a lie.
(“Tooth, Tongue, and Claw “)

Don’t be fooled by the breadcrumbs in the forest. This is not a fairy tale.
(“A Lie You Give, and Thus I Take”)

You won’t catch me in my underwear. I sleep in my fucking coveralls.
(“The Serial Killer’s Astronaut Daughter”)

Between the oft-quoted “Once upon a time there was a monster…” line (reproduced above; I just couldn’t help myself!), and the deliciously dark story titles, I was practically frothing at the mouth to read an early copy of Cry Your Way Home. Alas, this collection of short stories – an eclectic mix of science fiction, fantasy, fairy tale retellings, and the stray piece of contemporary fiction, all bound by a fierce undercurrent of feminism running throughout – is more of a mixed bag than I’d hoped. There are a few gems here, but also a good many underwhelming and ultimately forgettable stories, too.

The collection opens on a strong note with “Tooth, Tongue, and Claw,” easily my favorite of the bunch. A mix of Beauty and the Beast and The Handmaid’s Tale (or perhaps “The Lottery”), the story ends with a surprising twist that’s as satisfying as it is lurid. A mashup of various fairy tales/spin on the entire genre, “A Lie You Give, and Thus I Take” is equal parts beautiful, chilling, and cautionary. While I think Walters is at her best when writing in this wheelhouse, I also quite enjoyed some of her science fiction; “The Serial Killer’s Astronaut Daughter,” “Take a Walk in the Night, My Love,” and “The Floating Girls: A Documentary” are all worth a read or two or three.

All of Walters’ stories have a strong feminist bent; whether or not you find them preachy most likely hinges on your view of women. (Personally, I thought they were the exact right mix of righteous anger and engaging narrative device.) In “The Serial Killer’s Astronaut Daughter,” for example, we see a woman being punished for the transgressions of a man – and one to whom her connection is tenuous at best. She’s sure to be punished both for her silence and for speaking out – damned if you do, damned if you don’t – and so she settles on a maxim that we’d all do well to adopt: “Be Ripley.” (Or Vasquez, as it were.) Elsewhere, “The Floating Girls: A Documentary” is an allegory about sexual assault, rape culture, and the silencing of women that’s as ethereal as it is (sadly) mundane.

Of the stories that fell flat for me, “On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes” stuck out like a sore thumb because it’s the only non-fantastical piece in the collection (and kind of predictable, to boot). The others don’t suffer from a lack of imagination; rather, I just found them unsatisfying, either in concept or execution. That said, the standouts more than make up for it. Even though I was considering DNF’in early on, I’m glad I stuck around: the book really starts punching up – and with such gratifying force – in the second half, so much so that you can (almost?) forgive the random misses.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Tooth, Tongue, and Claw – 5/5 stars
Deep Within the Marrow, Hidden in My Smile – 3/5 stars
On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes – 2/5 stars
This Is the Way I Die – 3.5/5 stars
The Hands That Hold, the Lies That Bind – 3/5 stars
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: The Elephant’s Tale – 3/5 stars
The Judas Child – 3/5 stars
S Is for Soliloquy – 3/5 stars
The Floating Girls: A Documentary – 4/5 stars
Take a Walk in the Night, My Love – 4/5 stars
Falling Under, Through the Dark – 3/5 stars
The Serial Killer’s Astronaut Daughter – 4/5 stars
Umbilicus – 2/5 stars
A Lie You Give, and Thus I Take – 4/5 stars
Little Girl Blue, Come Cry Your Way Home – 2/5 stars
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice – 3.5/5 stars
In the Spaces Where You Once Lived – 3/5 stars

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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