book review, fantasy

Widow by Rob Bliss

A literary retelling of the three little pigs, Widow is not your childhood fairytale.

Joan, and her little boy, Joseph, move to the city after the death of her pig farmer husband. However, after a monstrous force destroys her house of bricks, the mother and son find themselves in the woods looking for a new home in this magic realism novel.

With some beautiful descriptions and a dream like quality, this story is still very much a fairytale. As with all good fairytales, there is a lesson to be learned but despite the rich symbolism, I’m not quite sure what the deeper meaning is.

A recurring theme is that messiahs are butchers and butchers free you from your life. Could this be the message of the book? That every rose has its thorn? This seems to be the case for Joan and Joey, as no matter where they make their home they are relentlessly hounded by pigs.

Perhaps the pursuing procines stand as a metaphor for grief and the difficulties for a widow to feel safe in a world that has already taken her husband, her home and her livelihood?

Do the pigs, ala Animal Farm, stand in for corporate greed and political machinations that strive to trap humanity in an increasingly unrealistic and gluttonous world? Could Joan’s altercation with a robotic policeman give a clue as to this direction, where she sees the modern world as a world gone mad and seeks to find a place where she can raise her son safely, each of her houses toppling the ideas of civilisation, government, entertainment and self sufficiency?

Or is this the story of a young woman’s descent into madness after the death of her husband?

One thing is clear, this was not the book I expected when I bought it. I admit I got it to see how the wolf fitted into the story, and I thought it might be dark fiction or horror. I was completely wrong. It’s hallucinatory prose is at times mesmerizing, at times infuriating as I wanted to argue with Joan for the conclusions she made and the actions she took.

It’s well written and guides you easily through the pages. However, I found the resolution unsatisfying as ultimately it felt that Joan was not active in her own narrative, that she was subject to the agency of others who put her into situations that she reacted to. Perhaps that’s the point, that the whole book is about women who struggle to survive when their whole lives are dictated to by men and who only know rest when they see that they’ve raised their son well.

Maybe that’s the best thing about this book, that I can see so many possible explanations for it, and any one of them could apply, or none of them could, and it doesn’t matter either way.

I award Widow

Widow is available for $3.06 ebook and $9.95 print book on Amazon.

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