Friday Review: The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When one of the family is accused of murdering his lover, a highborn woman who was living her year of being a Mendicant (a beggar, revered in this society and believed to provide blessings and forgiveness to those who help them), the laws of Lemanbuntunk require that the entire family be banished to an unknown world. The family ends up in a future America, in a world torn by war and a country overrun with immigrants escaping the horrors of their own lands. The exiles end up in a camp set up to temporarily house immigrants waiting to be either accepted or deported. They try as best they can to fit in and adjust to their new home. But they bring with them not only their sense of loss at the life they have been forced to leave, but also a few ghosts, real and imagined. As they struggle to find a way to survive, each member must face those ghosts and come to terms with them.

This was an interesting book. It’s part sci-fi, part magical realism, and part social commentary. The world building is quite good, with the city of Lemanbuntunk coming to life in the recollections and longing for home of some of the characters. The strangeness of modern day America to these unusual immigrants makes even that world seem new. Characters are not terrible, although some are a bit flat and less well-developed. There isn’t a big, overwhelming conflict to be dealt with, or an overpowering evil to be overcome. The conflicts here are more internal and concentrated on the family unit, but they carry the story well. With a more internal story like this, there isn’t a lot of explosive action, though there are a few moments.

The themes of isolation, regret, forgiveness, fear, and prejudice are a bit overworked at times, and feel more like lessons being taught than subtle weavings through the narrative. Even so, they are such a large part of the story and the development of the characters that even a bit of neon sign flashing of those themes doesn’t get too much in the way. In the end, this is a lost-and-found story. A family that has seemingly lost everything- home, friends, status, even some members of the family- has to come to terms with all of the heartache and change, and each in his or her own way, ultimately does. The whole book feels more literary than genre, but it is still a decent read.

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“Crossed Wires and Other Very Short Stories”. Twelve scifi and twelve fantasy short stories that can each be read in minutes. Available now Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and most other e-book retailers. More information here

I have written science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy stories. There are novels, novellas, and shorter pieces to fit everyone’s reading time. There are even some free stories, both here on the site and in other places. You can go here to find out more about the books I have published. They are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and most ebook retailers. Thank You