Recommendation: Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss

illustrated by Allen Williams

Set in the present-day and supplemented by reconstructions of the past, a woman investigates the unsolved murder of an ancestor in the nineteenth century. The author of this short story unravels the story in a seamless way that builds the character’s development as she uncovers new information that potentially sheds light onto the circumstances of the death of her great-great grandmother, who was afflicted with a disease that led to physical deformities when untreated.

An excerpt from,

I can hear them whispering.

I cannot see them, not yet. And when the curtain is pulled back, what will I see? Faces, pale and almost indistinguishable in the gaslight. My shows are only at night, for that, he tells me, makes them more impressive.

But I know my audience. Clerks heading home from their offices, tired after a day of crouching over a ledger, wanting to see a miracle. Serious young ladies who would never condescend to the spectacles of Battersea Park, but this is different—a scientific lecture. A tutor shushing his charges, boys who will one day go to university—until they see me, and then they shush of their own accord. They recognize me from their lessons in the classics and wonder, how is it possible? Gentlemen in top hats, headed afterward to more risqué entertainments. An old woman in black who peers at me through her pince-nez, disbelieving. She must have seen an advertisement and become curious—is it real? Or a hoax, like the Genuine Mermaid?

I am improbable, am I not?

Almost, but not quite, impossible.

And when the curtain is pulled back and they see me, sitting on my pedestal, arms raised, branches swaying, they will gasp. As they always do.

As Daphne, the protagonist, digs deeper into her great-great grandmother’s history, she gains a deeper insight into life as a person inflicted with their shared disease in the past. History represents different things to each person, but in the context of Daphne in relation to her great-great grandmother, it represents a way of gaining closure and accepting the past.

This story is recommended for readers who enjoy introspective narration and light murder mysteries.


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