cover image Thistlefoot


Gennarose Nethercott. Anchor, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-46883-8

Nethercott’s dark, difficult fiction debut (after the poetry collection The Lumberjack’s Dove) offers a heartbreaking reinterpretation of the myth of Baba Yaga. Isaac Yaga and his younger sister, Bellatine, are the “youngest living direct descendants” of Baba Yaga. They’ve been estranged since Isaac ran away from home at 17, but cautiously reconcile six years later when they inherit Baba Yaga’s famous chicken-legged hut. Woodworker Bellatine, who can bring inanimate objects to life, loves the house on sight, so actor/shape-shifter Isaac offers her a deal: they’ll tour the U.S. performing puppet shows and, at the end, all the proceeds will be his but the house will be hers. However, the mysterious Longshadow Man has been stalking the hut since 1919 and seeks to destroy it—and the Yagas—once and for all. Told largely by Isaac, Bellatine, and—fascinatingly—the hut itself, Nethercott’s ambitious attempt to write the next American Gods falters in its handling of evil. The characters themselves point out that the villain talks like a Nazi from an Indiana Jones movie, which cheapens the examination of racism and mob mentality—especially in the context of depictions of horrific antisemtism witnessed by the house (including a graphic infant murder in a Russian pogrom). Still, fans of thorny, contemporary retellings of folklore will appreciate Nethercott’s take on the theme of inherited trauma. [em]Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.) [/em]