Short Story Reviews: Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance by Carrie Cuinn and Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

lanagan yellowcakeYellowcake: Stories

Margo Lanagan

232 pages

Published in 2013 by Knopf

Source: Publisher

Yellowcake gathers ten short stories that have been previously published in various publications.  I had to pick this collection up after reading Lanagan’s previous book, The Brides of Rollrock Island. It’s a book that I’ve reread twice so far this year because I love it so much. With Lanagan, you never know what to expect with her stories and novels and that’s a good thing. The stories in Yellowcake are bold and original.

In “The Point of Roses” a group of boys gather to test their friend’s psychic abilities with widely felt results. This is the first story in the collection and it ended up being my favorite. I even asked the author via Twitter will readers see these young boys again. I want to know more about this group of friends and in a good way. Ferryman” is about a young girl whose family ferries the dead over the river Styx. “The Golden Stroud” starts off as a typical Rapunzel retelling but with a twist only Lanagan can pull off. With “Into the Clouds on High,” a mother is “called” by a higher power and tries to get her young son ready for when she can no longer ignore it. “Night of the Firstlings” is a retelling of the night when all first-borns were killed in Biblical Egypt. I found the last image of that story to be haunting.

Unfortunately, the other stories in this collection felt like mere glimpses instead of snapshots. I couldn’t hold on to the imagery or characters enough to get a “feel” for the story. I was lost and felt myself trying to picture the images or figure out the point behind a story. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance”

Carrie Cuinn

Published in 2013

I read “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” after Carl (Stainless Steel Droppings) lead a small read-along for the story last week. I don’t know about you guys but my kids and I are already planning what we’re going to read and watch for the upcoming R.I.P. Challenge and Halloween in general. We’ve had some gloomy weather so that probably helped us think about fall.

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” starts off with a mangy dog stealing Mr. Liu’s arm from the man’s grave. Mr. Liu has been dead for three years now but refuses to let the dog get away. The man’s pursuit of the stray through town along with the awakening of other members of the cemetery makes the living realize that the dead don’t always stay dead. What ensues is a hilarious yet thoughtful story about the inner workings of a small town and its secrets.

To tell you anything else about this gem would be to give away what makes this story so special. If you’re in the mood for a good short read or something a little spooky, you won’t go wrong with reading this story. It’s available online here. Or bookmark the piece for future R.I.P. reading. The story is one of several that makes up Cuinn’s short story collection, Women and Other Constructs. My rating of the story: 5 out of 5 stars.

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9 thoughts on “Short Story Reviews: Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance by Carrie Cuinn and Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

  1. I definitely want to try Lanagan. I have The Brides of Rollrock Island on my Nook, so that will be first. Still totally enamored of your description of some of the stories in Yellowcake, too. And I will definitely be reading “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance.” Maybe at lunch today!

  2. Short stories are like poems to me; it’s almost always harder than a novel to pick up a collection of these but, once I do, I almost always love these more than a novel.

  3. I’ve started thinking about Carl’s R.I.P. challenge as well! I’m sorry I missed the read-a-long but I’ll have to save that one for the challenge.

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