Sydney Avey

Dynamic Woman — Changing Times

Book Review: The Changeling

Sep 5, 2017 | Book Reviews | 0 comments

The ChangelingThe Changeling by Victor LaValle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Changeling is an odd book that explores love, marriage, and parenthood in the context of folklore. Author Victor Lavalle refers to his story as a fairy tale. I’ve always been a fan of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, especially the misdeeds of trolls. The explanation I’ve heard for a child’s fascination with these dark stories is that they provide a safe place to explore the fearful unknown. Children search for meaning in strange events. “But, why?” they ask.  “It’s magic,” is a perfectly acceptable answer.

This story begins realistically. People meet, fall in love, marry, have children. Spouses disappear. It happens. At some point, though, the story veers off the rails of reality and plunges into a horrific tale of distorted family life. Horror is not my genre, but like a wide-eyed toddler, I could give myself to the story because “it’s not really true.”

Modern technology plays a fascinating role in this story. We may be able to distance our emotions from the violence people do to each other on the page, but the role computers play will have us asking, “What have we invited into our homes?”

Magical realism

For all the magical realism in this story, there are a few very quotable moments that ground us in reality.  Two of my favorite: “The only real magic is the things we’ll do for the ones we love.” and, “What lengths will people stretch to believe they’re still good?”

I found some elements of this story confusing. The literal male bashing that takes place on the island of militant women (dubbed witches and wise ones) raising children in an all-female world took the story out of bounds into a war-of-the-sexes territory. At this point, I have to admit that I don’t entirely “get” this story.  Still, it gave me enough to think about to make the reading worthwhile.

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