Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan.
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House: NY, 2008.
2009 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults

After her traumatic experiences with her father and local boys, Liga magically creates another world (a safe haven), through her desperate need, for her and her daughters to live. Muddy Annie perforates this world for her best friend's need, making it possible for the bear mascots from the local festival to transport briefly to Annie's dreamworld. These incursions lead Urdda, the younger daughter, to search for the real world and to live there. Missing her mother and sister Branza, she employs the help of Miss Dance, a more experienced magical practitioner, to end Liga's world and bring them back to reality.

The story has a historical village backdrop, though not any specific time period. I'm not normally a fan of dialectic dialogue, but Lanagan's approach is different. A hundred years ago and more people talked how they wanted with little regard to standards. There is this feel, and it is done primarily through wordplay, a reforming of words and phrases that makes sense, causing the reader to slow down but also think more about the content. As a result, there is poetry in the writing.

The story and message are heartbreaking, though the fantasy softens the blow. Not just the predominant topic, sexual abuse, but the ending of Liga's protective world, her lost years, loss of loved ones, the rehashing of her experiences, and her later dreams burst. The overall message is the need to live in the real world, accept it, and appreciate the good things that can be found. Undisputeably, Liga needed a safe haven and time to heal, but her dreamworld possibly wasn't the best atmosphere for her girls. Then again, it provided a safe place for the growing girls, when otherwise they may have been harassed by locals.

related-small town life, alternate world, surviving and healing from sexual abuse, brutality, social restrictions for females, magic

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