I have read some short vampire fiction by Atkinson, was not impressed and only minimally entertained. When I saw this tagged as Scottish historical fiction, I downloaded the sample (free) and was quite impressed, enough to buy the book. I am not sure about “historical” fiction part. Where is the history? It is not history in by my usual definition, but it is history if I consider the language used. There is so much vocabulary unique to Scotland that this might fit into the category “history.” It is fiction with a terrible theme developed so well through the deft use of language that some of the terror is diluted to almost acceptable discourse.
Throwing Clay Shadows by Thea Atkinson
Maggie lost her mother though childbirth of a baby sister; the sister died also. It was months before Maggie could appreciate death, she really only knew absence. And she accepted responsibility for whatever took Ma and baby sister away. In order to not further cause havoc that would take father away, she stops talking.
Angus is grief stricken to the point of mental illness over the loss of his wife and daughter. Left with only the mute Maggie, and feeling inadequate to bring up a daughter, he seeks a new mother for Maggie. Whoever he chooses will have importance only in the mother role for Maggie; he does not look forward to another marital (sexual) relationship.
Angus is old, ugly, and has no social skills. Not a problem, he has found a mother for Maggie. Not far down the road (important, because it seems everybody walks) is Janet. She is already old, 35, and looking for a way to get out of her house. She is stuck there taking care of her parents and keeping house for them and her brother. Janet has secrets and will accept an old, ugly, socially inept husband to get away from her role as caretaker in a house she feels is not really hers.
Angus has a sister, Emma. She is married to Colin. Emma and Janet had been school friends; Colin and Janet had a relationship. We don’t know the depth of the relationship between Colin and Janet, but we know Janet was not a virgin when she married Angus. Since now Colin is married to the sister of her husband, Janet is an uncomfortable presence at family get-togethers.
Maggie is silent through much of the story. She does not communicate much with anyone, except her mother, who is dead. And there is another being, Shentu, a boy who is also Maggie, just in another time. Ma is trying to train and guide Maggie through vision visits. As the novel comes to a violent end with many conflicts literally crashing into each other on their way to resolution, the need for Maggie’s visions will decrease. The reader will still have questions, but help from Maggie will no longer depend on visions.
A roller coaster ride through traumas belonging to characters of all ages kept me awake so that I read this story in one session.