Middle Child Press: Book Review: Folklore...and Other Stories

10.29.2012

Book Review: Folklore...and Other Stories

First of all, I need to apologize for the utter tardiness lateness of this review.  I read Folklore a while back and got distracted by life.  Then I read it again, and I found it to be even better the second time around.  This is Ankhesen Mié’s second book, but she says it’s nearer and dearer to her heart than her first effort, Purple Jars of Rice.  

Folklore…and Other Stories is a slim anthology of three unusual narratives.  The book is beautiful.  The cover is of a reflected mask, which is a hint as to what’s to come.  Miss Mié definitely has a flair for words and imagery; the reader is transported instantly to wherever each story takes place.  Her use of language is spot-on, and in a manner which I have become accustomed to, she deviates from conventional storytelling techniques and presents us three exceptional tales.

“Folklore”

If I were to sum up this story in one sentence, it would be: “Sometimes you have to leave it all behind.”

Kazuya Kurosaki is a crime boss, a man wearing an elegant—albeit sleazy—lifestyle that, while fits, isn’t really comfortable.  Kazuya is aware of the knowledge, but has distanced himself from it so that he can be the leader he’s expected to be.  His second, the exquisitely insane Benjiro Hirosawa, has committed an unspeakable act (which in and of itself is no surprise; he’s a Hirosawa), and said action brings beautiful detective Amisi Ryan to Kazuya’s doorstep.  Amisi comes bearing gifts; an ancient gold mask shrouded in mystery and legend.  Once Kazuya accepts the gift, the world he knows becomes less important compared to the one the mask draws him—and Amisi—into.

This is actually two stories in one with the mask serving as a mirror; the story of Amahté and Djeserit (the legend) reflects the tale of Amisi & Kazuya.  Mié skillfully and effectively weaves the legend with reality, using near-flawless prose and dialogue so that Kazuya—and the audience—understand what is really going on.  Even with this intricate layer of detail, “Folklore” reads very fast, but one may want to dawdle over the words because they paint a most vivid picture.

“Echo”

Echo tells the tale of Rory Zheng, a traveling scholar and swanky recluse who prefers the company of books to people.  His isolation prompts Mr. & Mrs. Liang, his caretakers, to play matchmaker.  Their efforts prove futile until Mr. Liang suggests that Rory relocate to Autumn Valley, a small village in the mountains.  So they move and eventually settle down in Silver Wood.  Silver Wood is a mountain compound of five domiciles; a large central dwelling and four surrounding houses of smaller size.  Rory and the Liangs settle in East House.

Silver Wood is home to Ololara Mitchell and her family: her daughter Akemi, her sister Subira, Subira’s wife Comyna, and Comyna’s ailing father Dermot Hannigan.  At first, Rory is reluctant to involve himself with Ololara’s family, but soon finds his place via reading stories to Hannigan.  This is the catalyst that starts the engine on which the story runs.  Who is conspicuously absent from Silver Wood is Ololara’s husband Michael, and Rory can’t help but wonder why.

Again we have in this little tale very strong imagery.  Silver Wood is appropriately named and the manor and surrounding grounds are as much a character in the story as the characters are.  The setting is so articulately described that readers have no choice but to picture themselves within it, and what a lovely place to be.  I would say that the story unfolds in a standard fashion, except that wouldn’t be quite right.  Miss Mié’s way with words and her unusual perspective keeps things from being…standard

“The Collection”

This was my favorite out of the three stories.  For me, it was more real than the other two entries.  Jason and Maribel are lovers who have plans that extend beyond his divorce from wealthy sophisticate Mirelle.  Things are prodding along and Jason makes the decision to hand-deliver the divorce papers.  Maribel, whose Spidey senses are tingling, decides to go with him.  At first glance, it seems that the pending divorce agrees with Mirelle (to use Mié’s turn of phrase), as she is happy, even more glamorous, and living large and in charge in a brand new mansion.  But when it comes to relationships, nothing is ever cut and dry, and appearances are deceiving.

For me, what set “The Collection” apart from the other two stories is how it ends. The conversation between Maribel and Mirelle deviates from what is expected, and yet, it rings true.  All of the characters are likeable, and you can’t help but root for them.  I found the denouement satisfactory, and “The Collection” is a solid ending to Folklore.