Review: “Sea-Hearts” by Margo Lanagan

3 of 5 stars.

Shrouded in the salty sea air, a cloud of melancholic isolation and a heavy outer-isle accent, Killy harbors a generational secret. The boys of Killy know nothing else. In roving pre-teen gangs, they collect the gastropod sea-hearts considered a delicacy by their mams, largely circumnavigate their moody and drunken fisherman dads and avoid at all costs the lone unmarried crone, a notorious witch, that spends her days on the bleak coast weaving sea blankets from seaweed.

Known fact by the boys: there are no girls in Killy, for the mams drown the newborn daughters. The black-eyed, silky-haired mams used to bask on the beach together under their sea-blankets. But no more. They are each kept separate in the houses of their husbands. Only the boys can wander, and they do–finding a locked coat closet at the pub full of the mams’ fur coats.

Daniel starts to piece together the unusual circumstances of Killy on a trip with his kindly father to the mainland where he meets a girl for the first time. She’s a blue-eyed ginger, like all the dads and the crone of Killy. And she knows of Killy, the island of silkies abandoned by the women-folk when they lost the attention of their men . . .

The layers of mystery and history unpack slowly in this supernatural tale of coastal life.

This story appears in the multiple anthologies edited by Paula Guran, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 and Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, both published by Prime Books. “Sea-Hearts” first appeared in X5: A Novella Anthology edited by Keith Stevenson (Coeur de Lion Publishing, 2009). I previously had read this author’s dystopian, alien short story, “The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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