If you’re in the mood for ornate prose and intense emotion, Vera Nazarian is just what you need. I liked her Nebula nominated “The Story Of Love” just enough to want to read more. So now I am reading more (in her collection Salt of the Air), and while some stories I didn’t finish and some seem to take a peculiar turn at the end, one that holds together better than you will after reading it is “The Young Woman In A House of Old.”
It starts out all sweet and charming, with a little girl being raised by a household of lovable old people. Think the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only lots of them, and none of the elders are ever sick enough to be bedridden and no one ever dies. Then she goes to school, where the first thing she learns is her own name, Marianne.
She makes friends, gets into trouble, learns her letters, and discovers the joy of reading (my favorite part). Just as you begin to wonder where the story is going, Marianne begins to find out that most people don’t live in homes like hers. Most people have parents who remember their own names and have a life of their own without her. Most people grow up and leave home.
None of her questions get satisfying answers. All of her choices seem to be the right ones, and yet, you wonder if it was really the right thing for her. It’s like watching a frog get boiled in the milk of human kindness.