Kate Bernheimer, Writer-in Residence at UL Lafayette, has a new story collection Horse, Flower, Bird (Coffee House Press) and an anthology, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (Penguin). Horse, Flower, Bird has been getting fabulous reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, as well as among some high profile book blogs such as Wordmunch: http://bookmunch.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/there-is-no-disputing-these-are-adult-tales-horse-flower-bird-by-kate-bernheimer/.
In eight hauntingly poetic fairy tales, Bernheimer roots deep into the hyperimagination and fears of lonely girls and the estranged women they become. When a little girl’s pet parakeet dies, she runs away from home and later becomes an exotic dancer who builds her own cage. Two sisters perform imaginary scenarios from Star Wars in which love never triumphs. A girl abandons her sister’s friendship for that of a doll, and later for an imaginary friend whose disappearance leaves her psychotic. A young Jewish girl suffers from guilt and a fear of incineration after her friends and family fail to comprehend her intense desire for atonement. And in the collection’s most heartrending story, a woman hides a petting zoo in her basement, convinced that her secret is preserving her overworked husband’s stability. By turns lovely and tragic, Bernheimer’s spare but captivating fables of femininity resonate like a string of sad but all-too-real and meaningful dreams. This is a collection readers won’t soon forget, one that redefines the fairy tale into something wholly original.
And Library Journal:
Bernheimer, Kate. Horse, Flower, Bird. Coffee House, dist. by Consortium. Sept. 2010. c.208p. illus. ISBN 978-1-56689-247-6. pap. $14.95.
This is a collection of eight imaginative if not downright unusual tales that will delight readers but also evoke sadness and loneliness. Bernheimer’s lean and lyrical writing conceals forceful and spirited stories that will definitely prove disturbing, as in the collection’s last, dreamlike tale, “Whitework.” Other stories, like the penultimate “A Star Wars Tale,” will bring back strong memories of childhood as they communicate an innocent understanding of the world that is simultaneously beautiful and perhaps brutal. Bernheimer’s passion for fairy tales is evident in every story she spins, which should come as no surprise—she is founder and editor of Fairy Tale Review, and her previous works (e.g., The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold) draw heavily on classic fairy tales from many countries to create wonderfully original ones. VERDICT Bernheimer’s work provides a refreshing contrast to most available fiction. It is no stretch to compare her to Aimee Bender or Kelly Link, and fans ought to be on the lookout for My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, a forthcoming collection that she edited featuring those two authors.—Faye A. Chadwell, Oregon State Univ. Libs., Corvallis