June 23, 2024

Barnes and Noble recommended a book of the month, grasping the eye of eager readers roaming the store. A collection of short modern fairytale adaptations wrapped into one, “Black Dog, White Cat,” written by Kelly Link is a national bestseller and New York Times Editor’s Choice.

Link was born in Miami, Florida, and is the author of many other collections such as “Stranger Things Happen,” “Magic for Beginners,” “Pretty Monsters,” “Get in Trouble” and her most recent short story collection, “White Cat, Black Dog.” The New Yorker’s review said Link was “an expert illusionist,” The Washington Post called her “a short story sorceress.” Agreeably, Link is truly a genius in modern fairy tale short stories. The description of the book states that she took inspiration from stories of the Brothers Grimm, Scottish ballads and 17th-century French lore. She spins the classic fairy tales so seamlessly that they are unrecognizable. 

Link’s opening short story takes inspiration from a French tale called “The White Cat.” Link’s story, “The White Cat’s Divorce,” immerses readers in the journey of the youngest son of a billionaire who doesn’t want to grow old and ugly and sends his sons off to complete random quests. The main focus of this story is the son who encounters a planet run entirely by cats that walk on their hind legs. Weirdly enough, he doesn’t bat an eye. The son meets a white cat, who talks to him and gives him magical seeds to bring back to his father, which carries exactly what the father sends him on his quest for. 

Link’s short stories merge reality with a world full of magic and imagination, where everything is seen on a deeper level, and everything that happens isn’t always what it seems. As Time said, this collection is like “The Brothers Grimm meet Black Mirror meets Alice in Wonderland… In seven remixed fairy tales, [Kelly] Link delivers wit and dreamlike intrigue.” The story continues to get weirder and more magical as it goes on, nodding to reality and keeping the reader in this realm of what is real and what is not.

Link’s second short story in the collection is “Prince Hat Underground,” a modern twist on marriage and relationship dynamics. The story itself starts in media res or the middle of the action. She plays with the weirdness of the name Prince Hat and ordinary names like Gary, whom the narrator describes as being garish, which is contradictory considering Gary is an ordinary name, but to be garish is to be bright and vivid. Gary sets out to look for Prince Hat underground, and the story goes from living in New York to ordinary Gary following Prince Hat all around the world to the underground world. 

These seven short stories collectively pull the reader into this region of fantasy that challenges reality. Link begins the following short story with the narrator breaking the fourth wall. “The White Road” starts with, “All of this happened a very long time ago, and so, I suppose, it has taken on the shape of a story, a made-up thing, rather than true things that happened to me and to those around me.” 

Link seamlessly draws the reader’s attention with a captivating claim, “You sense the world has transformed, evolving from what it once was.” This subtle shift in perspective engages the audience, sparking curiosity about the unraveling narrative.

In this collection, Link’s short stories share a common emotional thread while embodying distinctly unique personalities. Link connects to the reader through the characters and the plot of the stories. She introduces her audience to these distinct realities, making them question the illusions that begin to appear around them. 

As we ponder and scrutinize ourselves and the characters, a realization strikes, ‘which story is unfolding before us?’ We descend into a narrative rabbit hole, experiencing a delightful discombobulation. Just as smoothly, a new story emerges, transporting us to an unknown setting with unfamiliar characters and another allure rabbit hole to explore.

 Is it worth the chance of  diving into this Barnes and Noble recommended read? Absolutely, especially if you revel in the art of being pleasantly deceived in  an unusual  fairytale.  

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