Separated into two parts, “Tender Bodies” and “Tender Landscapes,” the first half of Sofia Samatar’s short story collection Tender is the strongest. Of the first ten of the twenty total stories, “Selkie Stories Are For Losers,” “Honey Bear,” and “How I Met The Ghoul” are the best, with the other seven have their own flashes of greatness.
“Selkie Stories” and “Honey Bear” take place in worlds much like our own. The former tells a touching coming of age story of friendship/romance and loneliness that is grounded in reality in all ways except the existence of Selkie’s, mythological creatures that take the form of women by shedding their skin, but return to their seal form once it is returned to them. In the latter, there is a sense of ominousness from the beginning: a mother, daughter, and father are on a road trip where everyone seems on edge. But the feeling could be explained away by marital problems, and health issues, and over-protection of their young daughter. But then there are checkpoints they must cross and the mother and daughter seem strangely elated by their dreary beach destination. And then a terrifying encounter on the beach reveals that the world the story is taking place in is nothing like our own. Samatar has written a monster story where the monsters are a constant reminder of innocence lost, and asks if the memories and love that remain are worth the inevitable horror. Continue reading “Tender (Stories) by Sofia Samatar”