Chance and Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate by Nancy Springer
Before I really get into my review, I ought to warn you that Chance and Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate includes domestic violence, the murder of several horses, a surprising emphasis on phalluses, and other unpleasant and/or potentially uncomfortable topics.
With that said, none of the warning-worthy topics in the book—save, perhaps, the cocks—are belabored. I’m a squeamish sort, and I got through it just fine.
Chance and Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate is a compilation of short stories, poems, and a novella. All but one short story and one poem are fantasy-themed.
The opening piece, Chance, is a novella that reads like a traditional tragedy. It’s tremendously written, utterly compelling, and made me cackle until I couldn’t breathe by the sudden appearance of a monstrous dick monster.
More than anything, though, it made me think. I pondered on a person’s lot in life, on the pervasive way in which time and place can mold a person, on the nature of good versus evil, redemption, loyalty, and love.
And then, those thoughts still swirling in my head, I started on the next story. And if I was worried about the tone of the book veering too heavily into that of emotions and human nature—and, frankly, I was—this next story alleviated that concern while still dazzling me.
The Boy Who Plaited Manes is about an odd boy preternaturally good at—and obsessive about—braiding. And while Chance dug into what it means to be human, The Boy Who Plaited Manes cared little for that topic. The concept of this boy, of his skill, and of how the world responds to him took center stage.
And when the story was over, I was satisfied while wanting more. If that sounds like an oxymoron, imagine you’ve just had dinner and a slice of pie and you’re comfortable and full, but the remaining pie—still warm from the oven—sits before you. And it smells good.
Though I want to learn more about the boy who plaits manes, I realize that it would be like another slice of pie. Thankfully, Nancy Springer is wise enough to know this.
I enjoyed every story in this collection, though I’m not sure there’s much of a theme or connection to be found between them. Some are happy, some are sad, some are cynical. I guess two consistent things are the exceptional style of writing, and Nancy Springer’s ability to effortlessly portray humans in all their complexity in such few words.
I’m not sure what else I can really say. With such short stories, discussing them almost at all would pull too much of a punch.
Even if you’re not normally a short-story sort of person, I’d urge you to consider giving Chance and Other Gestures of the Hand of Fate a chance. Heh.
Cover art by Gary Ruddell