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All of Us with Wings: 08/24/19

All of Us with Wings

All of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil is a difficult book to read. It covers assault, underage sex, sex between adults and almost adults, drug use, homelessness, abandonment, and comes wrapped up in an urban-fantasy-horror package. It also sits on the road narrative spectrum, which is why I read it.

The setting is the Haight in San Francisco. The time period is the vernal equinox and the weeks following. On a larger scale, the time period is probably the late 1960s or early 1970s given the free love, sex, drugs and rock and roll setting, and the glaring absence of hipster tech workers, smart phones, social media and the internet.

The one inconsistency in my theory is Claude the albino alligator. He's only 24 years old. It's possible then that the time period could be the mid 1990s before the tech boom of the early internet swept through San Francisco.

Remarkably given the dark tones throughout the novel and the need for a foreword listing the trigger warnings, the book has a hopeful, dare I say, happy ending. Though the characters are different, the overall tone of the book reminds me of a blend of The Catsworld Portal by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (1992) and the Netflix series, Russian Doll.

The narrative is told through multiple points of view. The blurb will have you believe that Xochi is the protagonist. Her journey to San Francisco and her meeting of Pallas in Golden Gate Park does set off the rest of the events of the novel but her story is but one piece of a much larger cosmic puzzle.

From the perspective of the road narrative spectrum, the protagonists — or more precisely, the travelers — are sibling spirits summoned by Xochi and Pallas during the equinox using a variety of teas and other ingredients in the clawfoot bathtub. The blue girl and the green boy take Xochi's unspoken wishes and desires as their marching orders and set out to make things "right" while the rest of the plot is happening around them.

The blue girl and green boy as travelers are sibling travelers (CC). Their destination is the City (00) and all of their mechanizations happen within the confines of San Francisco. Their route, though, meaning, their initial means to reach the city, is metaphorically the cornfield (FF). They are summoned by a meeting of plant material and water on a magical night during a magical (though unintentionally so) incantation. Call it a tkaronto in a bathtub.

If you decide to read the novel (and I hope you do), please read the foreword first. Also, please stick with it to the end. It doesn't as some reviews state romanticize a sexual relationship between an adult and a minor. It's there but there are consequences and it's not presented as a pair of star-crossed lovers separated by the chasm of an age difference.

Four stars

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