DNF: The Color Master by Aimee Bender

benderThe Color Master

Aimee Bender

222 pages

Published in August  2013 by Doubleday

Source: Public Library


Andi, Andi, Andi. Remember when I saw The Color Master on NetGalley and had to tell you about it? Then you read it before me but didn’t love it? Yeah, me too.

Here’s the thing, Aimee Bender’s stories are often fantastical and strange and yet beautiful. Her previous novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, about a young girl trying to come to terms with her strange gift in a dysfunctional family, was beautiful and strange but also felt true. So the decision to read The Color Master was a no-brainer.

The Color Master ended up being an uneven collection of stories that I didn’t bother to finish. There were tales that were amazing and only Bender could have wrote. There were others that were regular and didn’t belong at all.

The book’s highlights:

“The Color Master” – This story is so simple and beautiful and just lovely. Bender takes inspiration from the fairy tale “Donkeyskin” to write a story about the color master who was able to make a dress the color of the moon. This story alone is worth the time it takes to put this book on hold at your local library, pick it up, take it home, and read. It’s that amazing. I photocopied this tale just so I can read it again and again and figure out how the author wrote it.

“The Red Ribbon” is the tale of a woman in a loveless marriage. Or rather, she doesn’t love her husband enough. The story doesn’t really fit the collection but it‘s humorous.

“Tiger Mending” – The story of two sisters, one a misfit and the other who does everything perfectly, as they travel to Malaysia to help mend tigers after they have been ripped to shreds.

“The Devouring” – You can also find this in Kate Bernheimer’s awesome short story anthology, XO Orpheus. A human woman marries an ogre who accidentally eats their children. What happens next is a reflective journey that includes a cake that refills itself and an invisibility cloak.

Since I didn’t finish this collection, I’m not going to rate it. Overall, I thought this collection was uneven and disappointing. As magical as the highlighted stories are, they can’t make up for the duds. I still plan on reading anything else Bender publishes.

My favorite line from the story, “The Devouring”:

…Loss did not pass from one person to another like a baton; it just formed a bigger and bigger pool of carriers. And, she thought, scratching the coarseness of the horse’s mane, it did not leave once lodged, did it, simply changed form and asked repeatedly for attention and care, as each year revealed a new knot to cry out and consider-smaller, sure, but never gone.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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12 Responses to DNF: The Color Master by Aimee Bender

  1. I think this tends to be my problem with short story collections in general, I find very few of them to be consistently great. I’ll usually love a handful of the stories, but the book itself feels more like a let down.

  2. Monika says:

    I’m sorry this one disappointed you. I really enjoyed it (and am reading xo Orpheus right now!). I thought “The Color Master” was by far the best one, though, and I agree with your feelings on it! 🙂

    • Vasilly says:

      What do you think of XO Orpheus so far? I’m finding the stories to be so fantastic. I loved almost every one that I’ve read so far and I’m only halfway finished with it.

  3. bookworm says:

    I think that tends to happen with short story anthologies. Some are good, then others not so much. Too bad this was a miss overall.

  4. Admittedly, I LOLed at this:

    “Then you read it before me but didn’t love it? Yeah, me too.”

    Ha! I’m sorry it was a DNF for you, but hopefully the high notes like “The Color Master” made it at least a bit enjoyable. I agree with you though…The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake definitely felt weird but TRUE. That is a very important distinction.

    • Vasilly says:

      “The Color Master” and “Devouring” did make this collection somewhat enjoyable. The thing I love about Bender is that she can put a sentence together in a way that is so beautiful and true.

  5. Dear oh dear, I always think Aimee Bender will be the perfect author for me, but in reality I don’t get on with her at all. I liked “The Color Master” a lot — like you — but whenever I get a book of Bender short stories, I end up cranky with her.

  6. Heather says:

    Thank you for the warning(s). I think I’ll take this one off my list.

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    I only read her first, An invisible Sign of My Own, and really liked the quirkiness factor. I’m not a big fan of short stories so I’m sure I’ll skip this one.

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