Literary Reviews, Page 36

“Lydia's Body," by Vylar Kaftan (continued)

I do enjoy much literary journal work, and I ultimately voted for Mr. Osondu’s piece (reviewed here). Among its many other virtues, I especially appreciated its clarity of focus. I do enjoy stories with hidden and often symbolic meanings; stories with allusions and double entendres by way of stinging social and political commentary. I simply prefer stories which the reader might enjoy and appreciate without having to constantly pause after every paragraph in a strenuous effort to comprehend what an author is talking about. I also believe stories with plots, suspense and a well-measured balance between narration and dialogue can at times be a refreshing change from the often tedious, first person monologues that dominate literary journal offerings.

In that light, I have chosen for my review from Clarkesworld "Lydia’s Body," [Clarkesworld Magazine; November, 2006] by Vylar Kaftan. The story is from the second edition of the magazine and is less artsy in tone than many of the later offerings, and it is a third person piece.

The story is a dark fantasy concerning an apparently adolescent girl named Lydia living with her thirty-something, unnamed widower father in the isolated wilderness of frontier Wisconsin in 1838. Except for Chippewa Indians, who ignore them, Lydia and her father are alone with the wildlife, with the nearest town being forty miles distant. Lydia’s father enjoys the freedom such solitude grants. However, from a teenage girl’s perspective, such an advantage seems dubious. A solitary life of drudgery within a one room cabin, cooking and keeping house, while her father is often off hunting for them, is not a life that most young girls would consider fulfilling, notwithstanding the fact that the man seems a good father and provider.

This is all the more true if such a frontier girl is not what she seems; indeed, if little is what it seems. “Lydia” is in fact a twenty-six-year old yuppie named Amanda Barnes, dragooned through some presumably mishievious, magical agency from 2006 into the 1838 body of Lydia. Such a scenario lends new meaning to the term “culture shock.” Despite her attempts to explain the truth of the matter to her newly inherited “father,” the man quite naturally dismisses Amanda’s account as the result of the delirium of his daughter’s fever at the time of the transference through time. There matters rest for two years as Amanda finds herself a prisoner of circumstances and frontier logistics. Quite simply, she has nowhere else to go in this alien and hostile environment, so she remains as the dutiful pioneer daughter. Click to continue:

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