Review: “The Jacaranda Smile” by Gemma Files

2 of 5 stars.

Writers often take inspiration from the circumstances in their lives creating a filtered truth, or fantastical fib, in the process. It’s a therapeutic response, playing out potential scenarios so as to avoid enduring each option.

This tale is a story about a story. An author writes a quasi-autobiographical vignette called “The Jacaranda Smile” that exposes aspects of her father’s second marriage to a woman she doesn’t like. In the story within the story, the woman’s stepdaughter [which would be the writer in the outer story] gets the woman killed with pure wish fulfillment. It’s dark stuff, introducing teenaged angsty magic and then forgetting that it has been unleashed.

She knows what she was writing about. Her father knows what she was writing about, though doesn’t say anything. The step-mother, who seems to be trying very hard to be a proper influence, knows what she was writing. This family is not healing. And then art and life start to get intermingled to a degree . . .

The tale is choppily confessed taking a seemingly long time to explain the tale within the tale. The effect falls short of hitting Twilight Zone uncanniness, though it is the uncanniness that gives the tale all of its meaning.

This short story was included in the anthology The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously read this author’s “Blood Makes Noise” and “A Wish from a Bone”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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