In “Trophy Wives,” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ylva Sif has a history of estranged marriages, but now lives with a mental link with another woman, Alanna Brigid Kinnowar. Alanna is married to Gwelf, a wealthy man who both tolerates the two women and supports them. Then Ylva goes to market to buy perberries and comes back with a refugee fleeing an arranged marriage.
There’s a strong uncurrent in this story critiqueing marriage; early on Ylva says to the runaway:
You’re trapped wherever you go.
In a way, she seems to be speaking of all women. Ylva shrugs off much of it, managing to make even the worst she’s been through seem not so bad. I suppose Ylva and Alanna can tolerate it because they have each other, and it seems make it their hobby to rescue women who can’t.
I like how the mental link is portrayed. I like how the one thing Ylva can’t shrug off is the pains and pleasures of music. I like the matter of fact way they handle everything, from cooking dinner, to pondering interplanetary politics. I really like the coffee ritual, which makes choosing a latte at Starbucks look like grabbing some java at a Dunkin.
And yet I never felt a sense of real difficulty for the characters. Any suffering is off stage, in the past, or a threat in the future. Only the refugee betrays any worry. It all gets wrapped up in lovely package that makes you feel good for everyone, even the bad guys.
Like taking a warm bath in the milk of human kindness.