Gwendolyn Kiste has a wonderful way with words. In her hands they are beautiful and savage, comforting and terrifying, heart-wrenching and healing.
And Her Smile Will Untether The Universe contains some true gems, tales thick with atmosphere and murky mood. “Evening settles softly on the orchard like black tar dripping from the sky” and later, “the air tastes of nicotine and abandoned dreams.”
These stories are about dysfunctional families, twisted sisters, and haunted mothers and fathers. “The Clawfoot Requiem” is reminiscent of William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily,” while “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray” reads like a nightmarish fairy tale about forgotten princesses.
“My father counts the money each night, pacing circles like a vulture that dines on the carrion of frail dreams.”
“Little girls don’t earn the right to question the wisdom of men. We can smile and blush and nod our heads, but we can’t tell them no.”
“Girls are always expected to carry an impossible burden in life, like a thousand bushels of apples strapped upon a single back.”
Stories like “The Man in the Ambry”, and “Ten Things To Know About The Ten Questions” showcase Kiste’s powerful prose and unique take on familiar horror tropes, while the title tale, about an old film star brought to life by a fan’s love, is fueled by poetry and romance.
“The way you hold me,” you said, your gaze bright as wildfire, “it’s like I’m falling, but you’ve already caught me.”
And the final line:
“And in the final frame, as the universe fades to black, you’ll save each other.”
Indeed, if only we could all save each other. And Her Smile Will Untether The Universe is a brilliant, lyrical, and moving collection of tales.