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?
I do not faithfully listen to many podcasts, but I do try to keep up with This is Horror. When they did their interview with Catherynne M. Valente, they talked a great deal about her work, her writing, and how she works with ADHD, writing Space Opera, and her two new novellas. One of them is The Past is Red and the other is Comfort Me With Apples. I instantly ordered both of them, and since Comfort Me With Apples came out yesterday, I figured I would delve into it while waiting for the Calgary Flames hockey game to start. The novella is one 100 pages, and so Valente grips the reader quickly with a story that turns bizarre from the very beginning and does not stop until the end.
The story is about Sophia, a woman who lives in a large perfect house in a perfect gated community. She gets up every morning, has her normal daily routine, and waits for her husband whom she loves dearly, to come home from his important work. She is happy. Life is perfect. She sits at a vanity every morning and puts on her makeup. When she decides to open one of the drawers she has never thought to open before, she discovers a hairbrush and hair, and neither of them belong to her. Thus begins the strange journey Sophia takes in this novella, from a place of content to a mystery of who she is and the real nature of her husband’s work.
It is tough to say anymore without ruining it. I loved this book and how weird some of it is. I love that there seems to be a perfect little world of the gated community, with friends that invite her for tea and gossip. I love that we know the characters are off and once Sophia starts looking for cracks in her world, there are thousands of them. The story is gripping and the writing is superb. Valente does a fantastic job with this novella, and I love that she splits the chapters with the rules of the HOA of the neighborhood where Sophia lives. The structure and the depth to the story in such a small space is remarkable, and I will be passing this novella along to my friends because everyone deserves the experience of this novella.