Having read a great story by Kelsea Yu in the Reckoning, I read the novella Bound Feet shortly after - which I like even better!
It's a great story with much suspense and some interesting twists, I did not see most of them coming, but they were all well-prepared in hindsight.
It's more or less about one of my favorite themes: grief. A child, her daughter Ella, has died. In the afterword the author tells us her partner has recommended she should write about something she herself fears - good idea!
IT's clearly horror, but not splatter. Plus, in the end it's not the "Oh, all are dead"-ending, but another kind of darkness, which is much better. I ask myself: What would I have done? This novella lets me see my own darkness, which is the most disturbing darkness I can think of.
Sorry about all the stuff I fail to mention, I am no expert in chinese culture, but enjoyed the chinese aspects in this novella, which are no decoration, but essential for the plot.
The first-person-narrator has lost her little girl. It's a year ago. She has met her friend Sarah in the Mom Without Kinds grief forum. They try to find the ghosts of their children at the place where the protagonist has lost her daughter. The child drowned when nobody watched, one of the biggest nightmares of parents all over the world.
The grief feels very real and authentic. The horror does as well, and it's working because Yu writes about the grieving mother so well. We are deeply attached to the mother, even when the horror really begins. And the real horror is in the decisions of the protagonist, not in the supernatural plot elements.
It's a very convincing horror story, easily among the best horror I read so far in 2023. And the moon spun round like a top by Hiromo Goto (in Queer little nightmares) is as good, but very different.
To round up this short review, a few quotes directly from the text:
Nothing could possibly be worse than being here, in the place whre my little girl died of neglect while I laughed and drank with friends.
a framed photo of Ella, smiling on her third - and last birthday
Months ago, I told Sarah how much Ella loved snapping open fortune cookies and making up barely comprehensible, nonsensical fortunes for everyhone, giggling as she told them to me and Anton.
Please, Ella, come back to Mama. Mama misses you. Mama loves you. Please. I would do anything, give anything to see you one more time.
I know she's thinking of her little boy, Sean, forever trapped at age two.
I remember Sarah's words from our first conversation. People always say helicopter parent like it's a bad thing. But if I could go back and redo one thing in this world, I'd be a fucking helicopter mom every moment of every day.
Anniversary. I suddenly hate that word with a passion. It used to mean weekend getaways and candle-lit dinners with Anton. Now, It's a tainted word.