4 of 5 stars.
Folklore abounds with sentient, living near-humans, such as golems and clockworks. Their relation to humans fluctuates between accounts, but the learning of human nature through the filter of the other remains the same.
This modern folktale follows Marian Collodi, a meek doll maker who is herself a living doll created by her father who was created by his father and back through the generations to the time of Pandora. The doll makers forever collect the escaped emotions from Pandora’s long-ago releasing. The collected emotions of sorrow, anger, loneliness etc. eventually overwhelm the doll maker who makes a new vessel, a porcelain doll, to contain the reserves of the whatever emotion is in too great of excess.
Marian makes a new doll to contain the sorrow she’s built up:
It’s no small thing, pouring human-size sorrow into a toy-size vessel.
Sorrow is surprisingly malleable, capable of adjusting its shape to fit the box that holds it, but it fights moving from one place to another, and it has thorns. Sorrow is a bramble of the heart and a weed of the mind, and this sorrow was deeply rooted. It held a hundred small slights, workdays where things refused to go according to plan, cups of coffee that were too cold, and buses that came late. It also held bigger, wider things, like my meeting with Father’s case supervisor, who had shown me terrible charts and uttered terrible words like “state budget cuts” . . .
Marian’s father, the previous doll maker, is dying. His vessel is cracking. And yet she struggles against letting him go. She’d have to make her own child, and prepare for the next generation of doll maker . . .
This tale appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read this author’s “Each to Each”.
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