cover image The Rust Maidens

The Rust Maidens

Gwendolyn Kiste. JournalStone, $17.95 trade paper (252p) ISBN 978-1-947654-44-0

Kiste (Pretty Marys All in a Row) nimbly invokes Rust Belt frustrations in this haunting fantasy set on working-class Denton Street in Cleveland, Ohio. Phoebe Shaw, 18, is “a bad girl with good grades” who’s bound for university as an escape from the dying steel mill suburb where she grew up. But when a strange affliction seizes the other girls on her street, including her cousin Jacqueline, Phoebe discovers escaping won’t be easy. The girls are changing: underneath their skin, their innards have all turned to rust. Alternating, perhaps needlessly, between the harrowing past and the stifling present, Phoebe recounts the failure of the steel workers’ latest strike, which has echoes in the neighborhood’s ruthless oppression of the increasingly powerful Rust Maidens. There’s also a romantic subplot, but it falls flat amid the turmoil. Kiste focuses on demonstrating the indignities young women may suffer when they defy society’s rules defining what they’re allowed to be. Despite its flaws, the Rust Maidens’ story is very much worth reading. (Nov.)