Review: KL Pereira's A Dream Between Two Rivers
Cutlass Press, 2017
“She never knew what was going to happen until she started stabbing her palette knife into the canvas. Never knew what stories the pigment was going to tell…” so begins “The Painter,” one of Pereira’s twenty-seven deep-digging short stories contained in her truly remarkable, provocative collection published by Cutlass Press. This striking image in “The Painter” might be interpreted as Pereira hinting at her creative writing process. Either way, every story in the collection blasts though boundaries to create spectacular, subversive fireworks of surprise. Every story manipulates expectation. Every story stuns and upends. Diving into the heated issues of gender, class, race, and sexuality, Pereira intertwines a multitude of diverse fairytales, folklore, and myths to explore and celebrate areas of “the liminal” in our society and in our minds. The “grotesque”, maimed Marsha in “The Dark Valley Of Your Lungs” is “the woman, the outcast” and yet she is also “the only person you can speak to in your full voice”. The herbalist who “ends life in the womb” in “Impossible Wolves” proclaims, “Women are always alone. We are only ourselves when we are alone; we become something, someone else when we are together and something else when we are with men and children. Being alone, remembering who you are… it is nothing to fear.”
Pereira splits the collection into two sections, entitled “The Loneliness” and “The Devouring,” and within these dichotomies she pushes the reader to face humanity’s inescapable aloneness and hungers, whoever we are and wherever we come from. We can all, in some way, be categorized as “liminals.”
But the true joy of the collection comes in the pure pleasure of sentences that pool effortlessly from Pereira’s treasure-chest imagination. Who else but Pereira could conjure up vivid sentences like: “They are round, ripe, huge as your tias breasts, and their warm smell tells you that they are already mush inside—too soft, like the head of a new baby,” from “The Dark Valley Of Your Lungs,” or, “This is what the afterlife is: a department store filled with the absence of things, their facsimiles lining all the shelves—racks and racks of colorless costumes in the clothing department…” from “Asphodel.”
Three years ago I reviewed for GrubWrites Pereira’s equally exquisite and extraordinary chapbook “Impossible Wolves,” published with Deathless Press (a shortened version of which is reprinted in the collection). In this review, I wrote that Pereira places herself on par with the modern fairytale greats like the late Angela Carter. But “A Dream Between Two Rivers” accomplishes even more than “Impossible Wolves.” These short stories contain consistent specks of gunpowder that truly unsettle you, challenge you. Her collection is piercingly in tune with our very unsettled times.
This is no cozy book. This is a deep, disquieting collection that is profoundly moving and turbulently creative. Its characters stay with you, linger in you. Pereira is an extremely important, prodigiously gifted writer whose voice I hope continues to be heard, louder and louder, though the challenges of our times.
Sophie Powell grew up in London and on a sheep farm in Wales. She is the author of the novel The Mushroom Man (Putnam Penguin) which received glowing reviews, including one from the New York Times Book Review, and which has been translated into several languages. She has also published short stories, including one in a collection selected by Zadie Smith. With a BA in Classics from Cambridge University and an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, she is especially fond of writing that involves myth, magic and fantasy. She has taught Creative Writing at Boston College, New York University, George Washington University and on seminars abroad, as well as in prisons and libraries. For more about Sophie, visit www.meetsophiepowell.com.See other articles by Sophie Powell