(I’m behind on actually sharing my reading thoughts here, but do post more regularly on Goodreads as I read.)
I first read Pen Pal on the author’s blog, where it was primarily a series of letters between the main characters. When I started reading the final version, I initially was uncertain about the addition of other epistolary elements: journals, newspaper clippings, government files, letters from other characters, worried they would change the story I’d loved.
And they did … into something richer and deeper.
Em is a child of water, living in a floating community on the Gulf coast. Kaya is a child of fire, imprisoned half a world away above a volcano.
They need each other, though they don’t at first know it.
Em believes in the Seafather who watches over her people. Kaya isn’t sure whether she believes in the Ruby Lady, but she was arrested for holding a ceremony for her, just the same.
When Em’s wistful message in a bottle reaches Kaya, their two stories become entwined, and the result is a numinous story about stories and how they wind their way through lives and through communities.
This book isn’t a fantasy, not really. But it hits a particular immersive mythic-y button for me that I don’t know how to describe–I only know it when I see it, and know as well that it’s hard to find.
And it gave me exactly the right sort of happy sigh when I turned the last page, as well.