#12: Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan ~ Guest Post by Vicki Thornton

Available: Black Juice

Influenced by: Alan GarnerTove JanssonRussell HobanAnne Tyler

The Story

Singing My Sister Down, the first story in the collection, is about a young boy watching his sister being executed, by tar pit, for the murder of her husband. This is the basic premise, but in truth there is so much more to the story. We are drawn along as Ikky’s young brother and her family walk out onto the tar with her. They feast, play music, talk to her as the tar slowly draws her down. Surrounded by friends and onlookers, as well as those who wish to see justice delivered, Ikky’s family sing.

They sing their love, their pain, and their hopelessness, and slowly she is enveloped in the blackness. All the while her young brother tries to understand. He watches as his aunt finally walks onto the tar to say goodbye, all the while talking of the shame that she has brought onto the family. The brother struggles not only with the why of what Ikky has done, but why such justice is metered out and whether it is really deserved. Trying to understand his mother’s words warning him not to love someone ‘who’ll rouse that killing-anger in you, if you’ve got that rage, if you’re like our Ik-’.

The image of a flower wreath, almost bridal in appearance, lying on top of the tar in the place Ikky has vanished, is an image that lingers long after the end of the story.

Why It Sticks

I don’t read fantasy. In fact, I never would have read Lanagan if it wasn’t for a reading list given to me for a course in which I was enrolled. It was a list of fantasy and science fiction authors for children and young adults. I wondered what I would have to wade through and admittedly when I began, I kept thinking ‘you can always put it down’. As it happened, after reading this story, I immediately read it again. I have reread it several times since, always finding more to enjoy.

I’m an observer and like stories about people, about the inner mechanisms that make them who they are, that try to explain what they do. Lanagan’s fiction is dark and surreal. Her writing involves worlds which, although similar, are not our own. She invents words and phrases – and she delivers characters that captivate.

Vicki Thornton is a writer living in the Dandenong Ranges. She has had short stories, poetry and articles published in a variety of publications; and is the author of four children’s books and her first collection of short stories Last Days of Summer was released in 2009 by Ginninderra Press. http://www.vickithornton.weebly.com


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