Sorrows, anguish and bitter might-have-beens dominate Rickert's fitfully brilliant collection of fantasy fiction, whose title novella, according to Gordon Van Gelder's afterword, reveals a love of the natural world that wonderfully imbues the author's often enigmatic fiction. Rickert's nature is less illumined by golden daffodils than "red in tooth and claw," rife with the fierce necessary complements of birth and death, reality and dream, sanity and madness. Rickert acknowledges her "magical realism" owes a literary debt to Gabriel García Marquez, but her most powerful passages, like "Moorina of the Seals," a startling ecological hymn, and "Many Voices," the horrific exposé of a women's prison, draw on woman's strengths and weaknesses as maiden, matron and crone. "Leda" and her other subtle retellings of myth, couched in the deceptively prosaic dialogue of America's underprivileged, achieve resonances that plumb the darkest depths of human love and loneliness, and occasionally rise to "the song that both connects, and disconnects us, shared, but never owned, life."
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