I was motivated to buy this collection to both support Vernon/Kingfisher and because I adore the story “The Tomato Thief” (winner of the 2017 Hugo for novellette). I was motivated to review what I’ve read because of the total lack of individual entries for ‘Tomato,’ despite you being able to read it for free, on line, right this very minute. What are you waiting for?
The Tomato Thief
A perfect story for the end of the year.
Mixing Native mythology with classic fairytales and the rise of the railroad can have lovely results. For a few moments, on New Years’ Eve, in the cold and dark north, I was in the hot, dry desert, baking in the sun.
“I need your old mule,” Grandma Harken told him. “The one I like to ride.”
Tomas looked at her, gazed briefly heavenward, and said, “That mule died five years ago, Abuela Harken.”
Grandma blinked. “What’d he die of?”
“Old age,” said Tomas, who was always extremely respectful but had a sense of humor anyway.”
Truly, an engrossing little story full of all my favorite elements: determination, magic, women tough as sinew, humor and a feeling of a tale as old as people. I read through a number of other reviews and suspect that what some reviewers are missing is a familiarity with both Native myths and with a particular classic fairy tale. If you are familiar with the latter, Vernon’s transformation of it in the New World is clever and enjoyable. It’s been a while since I read various Native mythology, but world origin myths are particularly… different, and I suspect don’t necessarily translate well conceptually. There’s a section in this that reminds me of those. At any rate, a fabulous, multi-layered little read.
“She put it in her pocket, because something the desert gives you an answer, and it is your job to find the question.”
Still, I disagree with Grandma on the value of a fresh tomato sandwich.
Vernon just keeps nailing it with the updated version of familiar bloody folk-tale and fairy tale themes in the story of a rural witch who found a kind of solid companionship in a friendly hog. Not quite as lyrical as her other stories, it has a familiar lead from Vernon short stories; a strong, stubborn, isolated woman of power. I appreciate the tale’s acknowledgement that there are social risks in that position, and that certain men will always see outliers as prey. A moving sort of romance and a nice twist to a traditional sort of cost-situation. There’s some interesting self-reference in this as the narrator elaborates on several local accounts of ‘what really happened.’
Three and a half, rounding up for the bloody sweetness.