Familiar stories are passed, one by one, from one storyteller to another. There are thirteen tales in Kissing the Witch; some will be immediately recognizable, some will require you to dust off your mental library, and some are fantastically new- conjured from collective memory and superstition but new none the less. Each tale is handed off from teller to teller; frequently the perceived villain will be the heroine of the following story. Most are, to quote Emmylou Harris, “full of heartbreak and desire”. She sings that she does not want that kind of story, but I am a sucker for unrequited longing- which this book has by the basket-full.
As with most things that I truly enjoy, I never want to share too much within a review; I am happy that I went in mostly blind. I enjoy fairy tale re-tellings, especially when done in short-story form. Re-tellings can sometimes get hung up on referencing every detail of every popular story turning what could be a short and sharp novella into a bloated slog of “don’t forget about ___”. Sometimes writers can hit the sweet spot; Helen Oyeyemi, much like Emma Donoghue, can rework and rebuild stories into unfamiliar and decadent internally-realized worlds. Mr. Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird are all-time favorites.
Much like Daniel Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster (a favorite of 2018- there is a Wind in the Willows gas-lighting sequence that still gives me nightmares), Kissing the Witch gives the merest of glimpses into semi-familiar worlds, leaving you hungering for more but satisified none-the-less. I assure you- Kissing the Witch will make you watch as it eats your trail of breadcrumbs.