the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Francesca Forrest’ Category

Much thanks to Annorlunda Books for providing an ARC of Lagoonfire by Francesca Forrest, out March 3, 2021.  You can read my interview with Francesca Forrest here

 

On the surface, Lagoonfire is a mystery starring an investigator whose best friends are retired gods. 

 

And underneath that first mystery was a garden that unfurled into verdant blossoms, as an entire world unfolded in front of me.  One of the many things I loved about Lagoonfire is how it felt like opening my eyes.  You know how you feel when you walk into a bookstore, or a library, or a museum you’ve never been in before and your face just lights up? Yeah, Lagoonfire feels like that.

 

Hmmm . . .  now that I really think about it, Lagoonfire isn’t a mystery. 

 

It’s about how the stories we tell shape us and our world and our beliefs. It’s about how the people we love will lie to us, to protect us. It’s about how love makes us selfish.  It’s about how easily the present can erase the past, if we let it. And we always let it.  It’s about how if we tell ourselves a story enough times, it becomes our truth, and a fact, and how facts are not always the truth, just the version of history we were convinced of, so we live as if the story was real, because that’s easier/safer than the alternative.  I really love stories like this, and I love how Forrest tells this story.

 

The sequel to Forrest’s 2018 novella The Inconvenient God, Lagoonfire works perfectly well as a stand alone. That said, The Inconvenient God (read my review) is an absolute treat, and absolutely worth reading, and worth reading first, because Lagoonfire has so many big reveals.

Lagoonfire was so good, it took me a few hours to come back to myself after I’d finished reading it. It took me a few hours to remember how to form words into sentences.  (Books literally floor me, ok?)

 

Decommissioner Thirty-Seven prefers that people call her by her formal title, not her real name. Her friends know her name of course, but she cringes when they use it.  If she has to, she’ll allow people to call her by her childhood nickname, Sweeting. 

 

She’s worked at The Polity’s Ministry of Divinities most of her adult life, and I should be very clear about what her profession entails. As a decommissioner, her job is is literally decommission, or “retire”, deities.  They become mortal, to then live out a regular mortal lifespan, and then die.  Gods no longer worshipped become truly forgotten. In the name of unity and progress,  the Polity has the ability to give mere mortals power over any god who roams the earth, as prayers to a multitude of local harvest gods and goddesses now become shiny modern devotions to the Abstraction of the Harvest.  The Polity views this as bringing harmony and equality to all. And should you forget that harmony and prioritizing the common good are virtues, the Polity’s job is to ensure that you remember.

 

The story opens with a freak flood at a new shoreline construction project. Decommissioner Thirty-Seven is asked to check in on her friend Laloran-Morna and make sure he wasn’t responsible.  He’s not just a retired guy that she’s friends with, Laloran-Morna was an ocean god that she decommissioned, she botched the job, and they became friends afterwards (long story).  And how could he be responsible?  Laloran-Morna lives in a 4th floor apartment, requires nearly 24 hour home care, and is practically on his death bed.  There’s no possible way he can make it to the seashore, so he asks Sweeting to go to the shore to pray in his place, to his lost lover.

 

Why does Sweeting seem okay working for The Polity? They seem authoritarian and kinda horrible!

 

Why do these retired gods seem okay with being mortal, and no longer having worshippers?

 

Why doesn’t Sweeting want anyone to know her real name?

 

If you’ve ever read a Francesca Forrest, you’ll know that what the story is “about” isn’t what the story is about. 

 

What if you were the god of a particular place, and that place no longer existed?

 

Calling Lagoonfire a mystery is like calling Buckinham Palace a building. Like, yes, it is a building, but it’s so much more than a building! 

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The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest

Available Oct 10th, 2018

where I got it: received review copy (thanks!!)

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A number of years ago, I adored Francesca Forrest’s novel Pen Pal.  If you’ve never read an epistolary story, or think you don’t like epistolary stories, Pen Pal will prove to you that writing letters back and forth is THE BEST way to tell a story (ok, ok, that’s my opinion). So when I heard that she had a new novelette coming out, you KNEW I was going to do whatever it took to get my hands on a copy!

 

The Inconvenient God is approximately 10% what it says on the tin.  The back cover copy states that it is about an official from the Ministry of Divinity who is assigned the job of decommissioning a waning god.  She gets to the job site only to learn that something fishy is going on. That all happens in what feels like the first five pages of the book.

 

And that’s when the really good stuff starts!  None of which is mentioned on the back cover. So when you buy the book, ignore the back cover copy!  It tells you nothing about this amazing world, nothing about this culture that being forced to move into a future it isn’t quite ready for, nothing about how history is written by the winners or how easy it is for entire stories and histories to be lost.  To be honest, when I read the back cover copy, I thought this was going to be about an old sky beard who was a professor at a college, and the guy refused to retire even though he had dementia. Yeah, that is not at all what this story is about!!

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Francesca forrest photoI recently read and reviewed Pen Pal, a most extraordinary novel by Francesca Forrest.  Click here to read my review of Pen Pal, but the super quick summary is that this epistolary novel focuses around the relationship between a girl named Em who lives in a floating community off the Gulf Coast, and Kaya, a political prisoner. Through Em’s letters and descriptions of her life, Kaya realizes she may have more in common with this girl than she thought.  This is a powerful and profound story of marginalization and empowerment.

Francesca was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the novel, living in Japan, indie publishing, and her passion for helping preserve native and minority languages.

Let’s get to the interview!

LRR:  The novel is written in an epistolary fashion, with letters, diary entries, e-mails, even newspaper articles. Why did you decide to present the story that way?

FF: The novel grew out of a story that evolved on Livejournal. Em’s message in a bottle, was just as an idea that came to me one morning, and people wanted more. I had had the idea of Kaya in my head for years, and I thought, what if she were the one who answered? So a few days later I posted her response. And then, every few days, I’d post another letter. I really loved the format and thought it worked well for a serialization because the wait for the next post gave the readers the experience of waiting for the next letter, just like the characters.

When I decided to turn it into a novel, I decided to supplement the letters with diary entries and other “evidence” so I could tell a richer story. I think it’s interesting to think about what people choose to reveal where, and to whom, and I tried to play with that with the characters’ letters to different people, and with how what they write in their diaries differs from what they say in their letters.

LRR:  Can you tell us a little about how this story came together, and what your inspirations were?

FF: Kaya’s story grew from two dreams I had: one in which a witch, or maybe a goddess, asked me to resurrect a defunct festival in her honor, and one in which a priestess was held prisoner in temple over a volcanic crater. I asked myself how those situations could be tied together, and that got me thinking about cultural suppression and why and how it happens—and then I could see how there’d be parallels to the situation of Em, whose community floats alongside, but keeps apart from, dry-land society. Other inspirations: I was enchanted, long ago, when I heard of jubilee, an event that happens fairly regularly in Mobile Bay, Alabama, and occasionally elsewhere: fish flood the shallow waters near shore so thickly that you can go out and just scoop them up by the armful. This became the dawn of seagifts in Pen Pal. And I was inspired, too, by the story of the pen pal correspondence I mention on the Pen Pal website, between Manuel Noriega, back when he ruled Panama, and Sarah York, a young American girl. That story raised so many questions about adult and child interactions, ulterior motives, and the intersection of the personal and the political.

emlee

artwork by Kelsey Michele Soderstrom

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.