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Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (BOOK REVIEW) 4/5

When I first opened this book, I hated it. The cover is gorgeous, and I picked it for my alphabet challenge reading list of thrillers for 2022. But when I was met with the style of writing, I thought I had made a huge mistake in choosing this book. I’m pleased to say that, for the most part, my initial impression was wrong. Please beware of spoilers for this novel- it’s a short one, and you may want to just go read it for yourself.

Repetition is a writing tool. When it’s used right, it can pack a powerful punch. But when I first started reading this novel, which had a rather repetitive style of narration, it jarred me. I didn’t even want to start it. I knew what the author was trying to do, and I couldn’t stand the voice of the novel. It got worse as I continued, listening to the misogynistic, sexist viewpoint of the novel: But this was on purpose. At first, I found it pretentious and annoying, watching main character Sophie bumble around with her perfect little life and her darling little love. It was a heavy risk of me giving up on this novel early on, and if it hadn’t been as short as it was, I may have done so. Eventually, I started to gather why it was written in such a way.

There’s heavy symbolism in this novel, along the lines of a Paradise Lost vibe, deeply shrouded in Adam and Eve comparisons. The roles of woman and man are very clearly set in this novel, purposefully, and the unraveling of the story is due to the woman’s loss of innocence- the fog lifting, the truth being unveiled. Her realization of things not being quite right follows the story, her ability to be content and unquestioning wavering.

Comfort Me With Apples is the age old tale of the garden of Eden and the apples that have the knowledge of good and evil. It is the age old story of escaping from a life you were once content with when you realize why you shouldn’t be content. Sophie is a girl who thought everything was perfect, who was kept in this way as a happy little homemaker who never asked questions, only accepting what she was told to be true. Adam is a spoiled, arrogant son of God, twisted in this story with a dark desire to control and possess the perfect woman- destroying them when they fail to live up to his expectations.

I loved the different way this story is told, in hindsight. Writing this review, I can see the clever details that I loved, the dark edge this story takes. I love the way it makes you consider a classic biblical story in a new light, a horror twist to religious ideaology. It’s fantastic in that regard. But at the same time, as I read it, I was underwhelmed. This is the type of story that, when you reach the ending, you’re not as thrilled. It feels like there should be more, like the unique twist falls a bit short of the mark. But then, it’s in the days following, when the story settles in your head, that you realize what makes it a well written story. I was truly debating whether this book was a 3 or a 4, and ultimately I settled on the latter.

This story, for me, was so annoyingly written- until I reached the point of the story, the symbolism and meaning that was being portrayed hitting me like a truck. I found it unlikable until I knew it was on purpose, until I saw what the author was trying to paint. That’s when I began to like the story, and why I overall consider this a great read. It works well as a horror/thriller, even though it is a short dose of it. And the writing, ultimately, is well written. There’s an understanding here that is really enjoyable to unfold. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes to see things in a new, twisted light.

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