Margo Lanagan's TENDER MORSELS (Knopf, October 2008) certainly has a provocative and evocative cover. Ditto the opening chapter. Ditto the rest of the book. Liga is repeatedly raped by her father and forced to drink herbs that cause her to abort the babies. She is hiding her most recent pregnancy though she is not certain what will happen. Luckily for Liga, her father meets his fate beneath the wheels of a cart one night. Liga begins to put her life back together with her daughter Branza only to be brutally assaulted by some young man out carousing on the town. Urdda is the issue of this violent rape. After such incredible violence, Liga and her daughters are given their own personal heaven in which to live peacefully and happily. However, the real world does intrude and Liga and her daughters are confronted with severe choices. Can Liga and Urdda and Branza find some version of heaven on earth?
Tough book to annotate. Tough book to read. As a reader, I railed against the unspeakable acts visited upon Liga and her daughters. However, I see also in the story the unbreakable spirit that sometimes arises from the ashes of lives shattered. I also am taken aback at Lanagan's ability to build this story that is at once grounded in reality and also heavy with myth. Evil, magic, myth, woman: a winning combination for readers willing to take the risky journey.