cover image Comfort Me with Apples

Comfort Me with Apples

Catherynne M. Valente. Tordotcom, $17.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-250-81621-4

This gem of a novella from Valente (The Past Is Red) packs a lot of intrigue into a brief page count. Sophia lives in the upscale gated community of Arcadia Gardens, a supposed utopian oasis under the management of the Arcadia Gardens Homeowners Association. The rules in Arcadia are strange and specific, forbidding, among other things, dancing and the building of structures for beekeeping, but all are said to be in favor of purity and harmony. Sophia’s life is basically a fairy tale, complete with a beloved husband at her side. But even as the reader takes in the frothy, enchanted atmosphere, there are hints that Sophia is teetering in an illusion that will soon launch her into darkness. This turns out to be the case when Sophia discovers a mysterious silver hairbrush and a dark tangle of hair in a locked drawer of their home and her fairy tale perception begins to dissolve. A masterful late reveal proves this to be a clever reworking of a famous story, reframing all that came before. Though there are some moments of excessive exposition, Valente packs in enough charm, curiosity, and foreboding to make this worthwhile. Fans will be delighted. (Nov.)