Comfort Me With Apples
Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne M. Valente has an amazing talent of taking an established fairytale, a known folk tale, a standard trope or an established genre, and turn it on its head with such originality and presence that you absolutely recognize the source material but completely embrace her deviance. (If you haven’t read her Six-Gun Snow White, do so…I’ll wait.)
Comfort Me With Apples is another tour de force.
Sophia is young and beautiful, with a loving husband whom she adores, who spoils her and has built the most luxurious and imposing house for her in the perfectly manicured and peaceful town of Arcadia Gardens. Life is so perfect for Sophia, and she is so gracious and so happy that you wonder if perhaps you’ve stepped into a retelling of The Stepford Wives. But no, it’s nothing that simple.
Everything seems wonderful in Sophia’s life in Arcadia Gardens, but the entr’acte before the story even starts already has the reader a little uncomfortable. Something is not quite right here, in this perfect world. As we begin to see along with Sophia little mysteries that just don’t fit, it’s easy to be lulled into the sense that we are building into a well-played domestic mystery, but Valente lets us know that oh, no, she isn’t done playing around with us yet.
The mysteries continue to grow, and take on a distinctly gruesome and desperate bent, until we find ourselves slipping into the midst of an all-out horror story, even as it maintains a stranglehold on the mysterious. And that’s even before we find out exactly where we’ve heard this tale before – although no where near from this angle. It almost feels sacrilegious, but that’s part of the mystery, too, and a tool Valente uses to drive her story home.
This slim novella will take you no time at all to read, but will keep you ruminating and digesting it for a good, long time. It’s well worth picking up.