cover image Skin Thief

Skin Thief

Suzan Palumbo. Neon Hemlock, $18.99 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-1-952086-72-4

Drawing heavily from Trinidadian folklore, Palumbo packs her debut collection of 12 uncanny shorts with love, longing, and death. A recurring motif is a woman mourning a life with a lover that she has to leave, as in “The Pull of the Herd,” in which the shape-shifting protagonist has left her herd of doe to live as a human with her mate, but is called back to the wilderness by her doeskin. In “Apolepisi: A De-scaling,” the mermaid protagonist’s lover transforms from mermaid to human. At times these repeating plots can feel a bit redundant, though the stories are beautifully told. The collection really solidifies in its latter half, in which the tales move from Canadian settings to the Caribbean and draw a deeper influence from local legends. The standout closer, “Douen,” is a harrowing yet touching account of a dead child who just wants her mother to see her again, written entirely in dialect (“Mama wipe she own tears and stop crying den. But she smile was spoil”). Palumbo proves masterful at taking material from folklore and making it personal, letting those things that are meant to terrify speak for themselves. Readers are sure to be impressed. Agent: Michael Curry, DMLA. (Sept.)