She remembers a place where the Night was made of warm shuffle and star-graze, tearing up sweet wet grass by the trunkful with moonshaded Mothers when she was old enough to tooth. She remembers, but there is no sweet grass to tear up by the trunkful, so instead she thoughtfully tears apart her stall, board by splintered board.
Title: The Only Harmless Great Thing
Author: Brooke Bolander
Page Count: 93 pages
Genre: Science Fiction // Novella
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Buy It: Chapters Indigo
In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.
These are the facts.
Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.
The elements of this story reach deep within you and will stay there forever. I have no doubt that I will think about this story for years to come. Bolander takes 2 true stories and weaves them together into a work of fiction. One side of the coin focuses on women who worked in US radium factories in the early 1900s who were hired to paint watch dials with special radium paint to make the dials glow in the dark (insane right?!). These women suffered terribly with many illnesses and some even died from radiation poisoning. The other side of the coin features an elephant named Topsy. Topsy was a circus elephant and was horribly treated. It made my stomach hurt reading up on what she had to endure.
In this story the author brings these two stories and we have a version that is so potent I was completely immersed. The writing is equal parts beautiful and gut wrenching. You have views from Topsy, the elephant and views from Regan, one of the women who work in the radium factory. The emotion that seeps from the page is breathtaking. I didn’t know what to expect going into this but what I came out with was so much. You know that emoji that screams “ohhhh” that was my face this entire book. If you want to read a novella make it this one. This is a must read!
**Thank you Tordotcompub for sending me the ARC for review. I am so touched by every story you have published.**