Review: “Flotsam” by Amanda Downum

3 of 5 stars.

This tale counters the limitations of being human and mortal with the possibilities of the supernatural.

. . . and on that third summer-short night Rebecca Killian admits a truth to herself.
She came home to die. . .
That night, whiskey still warm in her blood, she opens the window in her rented cottage to let in the smell of summer and the sea. It washes over her, fills her lungs, and she cries.
The first tears since the diagnosis . . .

Rebecca is an Irish ex-pat painter that has for decades drifted between New York City and Berlin. But with her cancer progressing into her painful last few months left, she returns to the land of her birth, and of her first love–a fae-touched woman that disappeared into the sea, but not before asking Rebecca to go with her.

Now, Rebecca struggles before opening herself up to her much younger lover and protege, Siobhan, which would only end in pain and sadness in a few short months. She also wants to find her sea-cast lover, Aoife, and say goodbye. When Aoife comes however, she offers Rebecca freedom from cancer, freedom from death . . .

The true history and form of Aoife and the relationship between Aoife and Rebecca remains obscured whether through the fog of terminal pain or sea-mist. This relegates these plot points to being metaphoric rather than completely fleshed out as a longer form of story would likely have done. Or, maybe Aoife returning from the sea is merely cancer-caused fever-dream.

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “Flotsam” first appeared in Strange Horizons, 14 August 2006.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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