Review: “Bruise for Bruise” by Robert Davies

2 of 5 stars.

This tale is an unsubtle Christian allegory where human-monsters are the norm and the rare individual that is not a monster is alternately persecuted and/or an object of reverence.

In the town of Promise, literal monsters are born–humans with an extra mouth on their foreheads or knives for fingernails . . . Until plain Ruth was born. She wasn’t extraordinary in any way so her monstrous mother and twin brothers hid her away from sight in their farmhouse. However, the town knew of her and stoned the farmhouse windows frequently until the yard was forever littered with glass. The rest of the town monsters put on an eternal circus freakshow reveling in their monstrosity.

Then Ruth morphs. Her bones shatter and twist causing bruises to appear all over her body. Each bruise depicts a scene from the Bible. Crucified Jesus dons on her back, Moses parts the Red Sea on her thigh . . . Ruth becomes the object of pilgrimages which draws Joss from beyond the monster area, and he loves her without knowing her. And he knows he has to get her away from Promise . . .

Allegory has its place, but it can take away from the characters and characterizations to its detriment. Unfortunately, Joss as the hero is the only character with a personality in this tale. Ruth deserves equal if not greater treatment to break the cycle of being a helpless character always manipulated by others regardless of their intentions.

This short story was included in the anthology The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 edited by Paula Guran.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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