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Review of Tender Morsels

tender-morselsstar2Margo Lanagan Tender Morsels
435 pp. Knopf 10/08 isbn 978-0-375-84811-7 $16.99 g
Library edition isbn 978-0-375-94811-4 $19.99
(High School)

Raped repeatedly by her father and, after his death, brutally gang-raped by village youths, fifteen-year-old Liga determines to kill herself and her baby. Instead of dying, the two enter a parallel world; a place without aggression, fear, or pain. There Liga raises her two daughters, Branza and Urdda. As the girls grow, strangers visit Liga’s heaven—a “stumpety” little man intent on magical riches; two bear-men who have wandered in from Liga’s former village’s seasonal fertility festival. They pique young Urdda’s curiosity, and she finds her way back to the real world. Her discovery ruptures Liga’s safe but stagnant heaven forever but results in a fuller life for all three women. Lanagan’s poetic style and her masterful employment of mythic imagery give this story of transformation and healing extraordinary depth and beauty. The characters’ earthy folk dialect tethers Lanagan’s fantasy firmly to very real physical and psychic experience even as the lyrical narrative voice (“Morning came, sweet as new milk spilling up the sky, all dew and birdsong and bee-buzz”) intensifies its fairy-tale atmosphere. At the same time, Lanagan offers up difficult truths—and complicated, human characters—that are as sobering as they are triumphant.

From the September/October 2008 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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