Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Posted by Simcha 7:12 PM, under | 8 comments
A thief holds up a bank but instead of demanding money he insists that each of the customers hand over to him the item in their possession which is the most precious to them. One man gives the thief a watch that was a gift from his mother, another hands over his parents' wedding picture. A woman gives the thief a picture of her children and another of the customers gives him the pay stub from his recent promotion. After collecting an object from each person in the room the thief heads to the door, but before leaving he announces that he now has in his possession a piece of each person's soul, which will result in some strange consequences, and that if they don't learn how to grow the pieces of soul back, they will die.
In the days following the bank robbery each of the victims begin to feel the effects prophesied by the thief. One woman's lion tattoo comes to life and begins stalking her, forcing the woman to be constantly on the run. Another woman turns into candy and gets eaten by her hungry husband. And one woman suddenly notices that she has begun shrinking. It's the husband of the shrinking woman who narrates this story, describing the experience of watching his wife, and the mother of his two- year old son, slowly fade away, as well as recounting the the events that befall each of the other bank robbery victims.
I had really been looking forward to reading this novella, which sounded delightfully bizarre, but now that I've read it (twice) I'm not really sure what I think about it.
Other reviews of The Tiny Wife describe it as a modern fairy tale or fable, and I could see where comparisons would be made, but it didn't provide me with any of the satisfaction of a such a tale. Fairy tales, I understand (usually). Witches and step-mothers are evil, princes are romantic and heroic and unfamiliar old women are to be assisted and guided by. But what about thieves? I just didn't know what to make of the thief in this story. He steals and then offers some vaguely wise-sounding, but unhelpful, advice and then crops up a couple more times for no apparent reason before the story is resolved. The thief's role in this story was so ambiguous that I found him more distracting than anything else. I kept waiting for his purpose to be revealed, though it never really is, which really bothered me.
The first time I read The Tiny Wife I didn't get it at all. I had been waiting for events to come full-circle, making sense of the strange occurrences, but this doesn't really happen. After a second reading of the novella I came to understand that the anecdotes are meant to explore how different people respond to the challenges in their lives, their relationships and their fears. Some people manage to conquer them while others, such as the woman who gets eaten by her husband and children, are destroyed by them. But even after a second reading not all of the stories in this novella made sense to me, and in many cases I could see no connection between the object that had been given to the thief and the consequences. Perhaps a third reading would help, but I just don't have the time.
Anyways, try the book. It's short and easy to read and if you have an appreciation for the unusual and bizarre then you'll probably like it. Particularly recommended for fans of Aimee Bender.