REVIEW: Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.
It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.
But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze….
But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?
Dear Ms. Valente,
Yes, yes, yes the cover did it. I saw it and I had to read this novella. Had to get my hands on it. The beginning sucked me in with the bonkers HOA rules and that slight hint that something is wrong in this arcadian paradise. Sophia loves her life, Sophia loves her husband, Sophia is living her best life. Her house is perfect, her neighbors are friendly and so concerned about whether she is happy. And she is happy – so happy with her perfect life and perfect husband. So of course there is some sand in this vaseline. I won’t say much more as that would give things away and I recommend going into this one without spoilers. The title should be a hint, though.
The prose is delicious and lovely. Reading it is the equivalent of savoring a large bowl of ripe berries, sweet enough that they don’t even need added sugar. The names of the neighbors are cute but also much more than that. The perfect large house is like those mega-McMansions of 20,000 sq feet that look so opulent and amazing at first glance (second kitchen, walk-in bedroom sized closet, every bell and whistle plus indoor and outdoor pools) but which gradually gets oppressive the more you think about keeping it up. Or even just living in it.
Sophia’s perfect husband – she’s made for him! – yeah, I could see eventually pushing him down the stairs. And that’s one of the reasons I am going with a lower grade than the perfect prose might warrant. Because I wanted something to happen that didn’t. I wanted Justice (capital J intended) and didn’t feel like I got it. The plot took something many of us know and twisted it into something that is awful and yet also plausible. So kudos for that. This will be one of those stories that I mentally rewrite the ending of whenever I think of it. B