This is one of those books that I will be thinking about long after I finished it.
When, in 1955, hundreds of thousands of women of all ages spontaneously turn into dragons, the government’s official statement is that the women “disappeared.” Scientists who defy the government’s gaslighting call it the “Mass Dragoning” and begin to study the phenomenon. Much of that study is driven undergound by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Meanwhile, families are left to pick through the wreckage, both literally and figuratively, of their lives.
The story follows a young girl in Wisconsin, Alex, whose beloved Aunt Marla has “disappeared” leaving her baby, Beatrice, behind. Alex’s family takes Beatrice in and her mother weaves a narrative that a very confused little girl must convince herself to believe: Beatrice is her sister and her aunt has died. Any discussion of dragons is not permitted.
Alex is a bright student in a time when girls were not encouraged to outshine their male counterparts. She lives in a household where she witnesses her mother regularly degraded by her father. As Alex navigates all of this, and a growing attachment to her best friend Sonja, the lie that her family and the world is built upon begins to crumble.
I’m not sure that I have read another book that is more of celebration of all of the complexities of being a woman or someone who identifies as a woman. It’s an interesting look at bodies, our dreams, our connection to the earth, our relationships both platonic and sexual, and the obstacles that the world, other women and ourselves put in our way.