Margo Lanagan's story collection, Red Spikes, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book and a Horn Book Fanfare, and Black Juice was a Printz Honor Book. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
Gr 9 Up-A traumatized teen mother magically escapes to her own personal heaven in this daring and deeply moving fantasy. The characters, setting, much of the action, and even the very words of the title are taken from the Grimm Brothers' "Snow-White and Rose-Red," a sweet story of contrasting sisters who live deep in the forest and whose innocent hearts are filled with compassion for a lonely bear and an endangered dwarf. In the novel, Liga's daughters-one born of incest, the other of gang rape-first flourish in Liga's safe world. But encounters with magical bears and the crusty dwarf challenge them to see a world beyond their mother's secure dreamscape. Eventually the younger one, Urdda, and subsequently her sister and Liga are drawn back into the real world in which cruelty, hurt, and prejudice abound. But it is also only there that they can experience the range of human emotion, develop deep relationships, and discover who they truly are. The opening chapters vividly portray the emotional experience of a boy's first sexual encounter, mind-numbing abuse by Liga's father, and a violent gang rape. It's heavy fare even for sophisticated readers, but the author hits all the right notes, giving voice to both the joys and terrors that sexual experience can bestow without saying more than readers need to know to be fully with the characters. While the story explores what it means to be human, it is at its heart an incisive exploration of the uses and limitations of dissociation as a coping mechanism. Beautifully written and surprising, this is a novel not to be missed.-Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
While I already blurbed this book as a best of 2008, it deserves a place here for its complex and unflinching portrayal of motherhood. Young Liga wants to protect her baby girls from the cruelty of the world. Her wish is granted, and she is allowed to raise them in a magical place of her own imagining. When one daughter finds her way to the real world, Liga is forced to confront the consequences of her choice. Working so hard to protect her children has cost her years of time and possibly her future happiness. Why It Is for Us: Seldom does a reader experience such a profoundly adult insight in a book written for teens. No lie, the world Liga rescues her family from is cruel. The lines between human and animal, magic and reality are blurred. Lanagan's writing is reminiscent of Toni Morrison's or Isabel Allende's-elegant, complex, and worth savoring every word. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
In her extraordinary and often dark first novel, award-winning story writer Lanagan (Red Spikes) creates two worlds: the first a preindustrial village that might have sprung from a Brueghel canvas, a place of victims and victimizers; the second a personal heaven granted to Liga Longfield, who has survived her father's molestations and a gang rape but, with one baby and pregnant again, cannot risk any further pain. As she raises her two daughters, placid Branza and fiery Urdda, she discovers that her universe is permeable: a dwarf or "littlee man," in Lanagan's characteristically knotted parlance, slips in and out of her world in search of treasure; and a good-hearted youth also enters, magically transformed into a bear in the process. A less kind man-bear follows, and then a teenage Urdda, avid for a richer life with the "vivid people," figures out how to pass through the border, too. Writing in thick, clotted prose that holds the reader to a slow pace, Lanagan explores the savage and the gentlest sides of human nature, and how they coexist. With suggestions of bestiality and sodomy, the novel demands maturity--but the challenging text will attract only an ambitious audience anyway. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Tender Morsels is Margo Lanagan's highly anticipated new novel, and it has most definitely been worth the wait. With her three previous collections of short stories, Lanagan established herself as an author unafraid to tread the darker paths of fantasy, as shown in her multiple award-winning story, 'Singing My Sister Down', and Tender Morsels takes a similar tone. Liga is a young peasant girl, who gives birth to two children after being abused by her father and raped by boys from a nearby village. Wanting nothing more than to protect her children from a life like hers, Liga finds her wish granted, as she is transported to a world of her own creation, free from such cruelties. But the boundaries of this other world are not solid. Whether by accident or design, men begin to find their way through the walls and threaten to destroy this haven Liga has created. Although it can be read as simply a dark fairytale, Lanagan's novel is dense with issues of gender, psychology, and society, that makes this a very satisfying read. If you're a fan of Lanagan's previous work, Grimm's fairytales, or dark fantasy, this novel is a must-read. Stuart Dunstan is the special orders coordinator at Borders Brisbane
Starred Review, Booklist, August 1, 2008:
"A marvel to read and will only further solidify Lanagan's place at the very razor' s edge of YA speculative fiction."
Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2008:
"Lanagan's poetic style and her masterful employment of mythic imagery give this story of transformation and healing extraordinary depth and beauty."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, September 8, 2008:
"Lanagan explores the savage and the gentlest sides of human nature, and how they coexist."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2008:
"By turns horrifying and ribald, witty and wise, this tour de force of a novel almost demands multiple readings to fully appreciate each of its layers."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 2008:
"Beautifully written and surprising, this is a novel not to be missed."