cover image You Have Never Been Here

You Have Never Been Here

Mary Rickert. Small Beer (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-61873-110-4

Beautiful, descriptive prose enriches tales of ghosts, loss, and regret in this leisurely collection. Rickert (The Memory Garden) draws heavily from Gothic concepts of watery lovers (“Journey into the Kingdom”) and dead children (“Holiday”) while giving her stories more modern protagonists. The prose is designed to be read slowly, with sentences such as “He smelled the odd odor of saltwater and mud, as if she were both fresh and loamy” forming a picture in the reader’s mind. In some cases, the whole is less than its eloquent parts; “Cold Fires,” for example, meanders in the cliché of story-within-story. However, there are several standouts, including “The Christmas Witch,” a structurally creative tale featuring a young girl’s obsession with bones, and the novella “The Mothers of Voorhisville,” which uses multiple narrators to good effect as a town deals with a strange series of births. Fans of Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link will appreciate Rickert’s explorations of myth and memory. [em](Nov.) [/em]