Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sister Emily's Lightship

Sometimes you walk away from a book loving it.  Sometimes you walk away from a book hating it.

Then there are the times you walk away from a book completely unsure what your reaction is.

I found Sister Emily's Lightship while looking for another book by Jane Yolen.  Ms. Yolen puts the PRO in prolific.  She has published over one hundred fifty books.  (I'm still trying to finish just one!)  She has written everything from children's books to science fiction to historical to fantasy.  She has been published in anthologies and collections.  This woman WRITES.

Sister Emily's Lightship is a collection of her short stories.  There is no real theme among them - her explanations in the author's note point to the idea that she just had several short stories written over the years that wound up in this collection one way or another.  The title refers to the final story, which won the 1998 Nebula award for short fiction.  It is a fictionalized tale of Emily Dickinson encountering a space alien.  Yes, that is as odd as it sounds, and this may give you an idea of what the book is like.

First, the writing.  Ms. Yolen is a wonderful storyteller.  She uses a variety of writing styles, flowing along with whatever story she happens to be writing at the time.  Very versatile.  Her choice of language is beautiful.  I love it when storytellers actually have a vocabulary.  She phrases her ideas beautifully, and her stories are a joy to read, even if you don't like the actual story.  She has the ability to bring you right into the scene and carry you along.

She also writes intelligently.  Many of her stories start in the middle of a scene or an idea.  You have no idea what is going on because you weren't there for the beginning, but she assumes you are smart enough and patient enough to hang in there, because if you are, all shall be rewarded.  She assumes her readers have brains and imaginations and don't need everything spelled out for them.  I enjoy that very much.

And then we come to content.  I truly enjoyed many of the stories.  She writes several redactions of fairy tales - telling the story in a different way to see it from another perspective. (What if Peter Pan is really the bad guy and Hook has been trying to rescue the Lost Boys?  What if Rumpelstiltskin was actually a Ukrainian Jewish man whose good name has been smeared?)  I love those stories.  They make you THINK.  She also writes several stories about fairy folk, which are fun and enjoyable.  She has some science fiction in there, which I enjoy.  She also has some strange, dark tales that made me very uncomfortable.  Some of the stories take very dark twists.  Some of them end abruptly and ironically.  Some of the stories made me sick to my stomach, while others made me go "huh?"  There is an alien story of space travelers that salvage and digest ideas in order to survive.  There is a story about a small town creepy outcast guy.  (Really didn't like that one.)  There's one that is, quite frankly, a raunchy double entendre, all the way through.  Others seem to be Native American tales or stories from other cultures.  There's one that turned out kinda vampire-y, and I could have done without that. She beats up on Creationists at one point, which annoyed me because I have no platform for rebuttal with her.  Really, she gets her ideas  from anywhere, and she writes them down as they come.

Sister Emily's Lightship gave me much to ponder.  It expanded my mind and made me see the world in a new perspective, which is exactly what it's supposed to do.  We can't just avoid anything that makes us uncomfortable or we will never grow.   So, overall, did I like the book?  I'm not sure.  Do I recommend the book?  I'm not sure.  Will I read the book again?  Probably not.  Do I regret reading the book?  No, not at all. 

Sometimes you read a book and it's just a different experience altogether.  And that's not a terrible thing.

Rating: Ummm...I don't know.  Some books are not designed for a rating scale.

What I'm reading now: Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger 
Top Five TBR:
1. Austenland by Shannon Hale
2. Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge
3. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
4. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
5. Crazy Love by Francis Chan 

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