Singing With All My Skin & Bone Book Review
I’m familiar with Sunny Moraine’s fiction and have followed their publications on Apex, Nightmare, and Shimmer. Additionally, I’ve worked with them professionally, and their editorial work is great (highly recommend). Singing With All My Skin and Bone has been on my backlist to conquer since it first published from Undertow Publications and I couldn’t be more happy with the collection. It has everything I wanted: Moraine’s work all in one place where I could read them back to back, not just as quick online magazine skims during my lunch break. Moraine’s style continues to be darkly heartbreaking, like a deep well. You drop a stone or coin into it and the ripples touch more than you thought possible. Plus, the tons of references to Richard Siken’s Crush—how apt is that for me?
My favorite stories, I believe, center around Moraine’s later works. Their voice seems settled and certain compared to some of the other stories, but no matter where you are on the timeline, you know who the words belong to. By far, my favorite story is “Singing With All My Skin and Bone,” an intimate story of rage, blood witchcraft, self-mutilation, and bullying. I can’t say it enough—the voice in this story is so intimate it becomes painful and even as the protagonist wields newfound power with terrible consequences, you can understand why the sublimity experience might be worth it.
The theme of physical self-destruction continues into my second favorite story, “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale,” where an apocalypse, cannibalism, and heartbreaking love are front and center. Survival lies in the eye of each story’s maelstrom—as in the things people will do to stay alive because it’s in our nature to live—and how to deal with the consequences of choosing to live and not die. In a sense, it all boils down to sacrifice. At first, the main character sounded like a young child to me, who quickly grew into an adult seeking some kind of comfort and acceptance for what she was forced to do.
“Event Horizon” was my third favorite story, mainly because it’s a story I’ve always wanted to write. Hungry houses that must be fed, but will they feed on you? And amidst the sacrifice blooms a hidden love that gets its first taste of rejection. I wish this story was longer—hell, I’d pay greenbacks for a novel—it has that Stephen King IT mentality of experiencing the magical and horrific as a child and finding out it still haunts you into adulthood.
My fourth is a tie between “Across the Seam,” with feet in the legends of Baba Yaga and “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow,” a Little Mermaid re-telling. Watching the little mermaid reject her sea foam fate and turn into a vicious, bloody sea witch made my heart a bit happy. I’m not sure what Young Me would think of it, especially with my infatuation with the Disney re-telling, but Present Me was delighted.
Other notables are “Love in the Time of Vivisection” which feels like an intimate portrait into the life of someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, wielding ultimate power over life and the unwilling (here, willing) victim to satisfy that ultimate insatiable need to control. “It’s Healing It’s Never Whole” felt like a fresh take on the afterlife—but it did have me pondering for a good long while why many times afterlives are created to be a workaholic capitalistic lifestyle, as if finding ultimate satisfaction in work is a kind of heaven unattainable in the real world. “The Throat is Deep and the Mouth is Wide” had me wondering about unanswerable questions, and, if any answer would be good enough to satisfy that hunger to know.
The other stories were entertaining, but what halted their ascension to Favorite heights centered around the fact that they felt more like emotional explorations rather than a story. More like thesis stated facts told in an emotional way, a comment on society, or even just a strange occurrence to create an unsettling ambiance, rather than a tale where I connected with the characters.
Still, this collection made me think and take my time in reading. I couldn’t ask for more. Five glorious stars.