Fifteen Afro-Caribbean–flavored fables, some set in Toronto, by lauded Locus Award winner Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, 1998, etc.). “Riding the Red” varies Little Red Riding Hood tale by adopting the viewpoint of Grandma, whose hormones lust for Wolfie. “The Money Tree” entwines two or three familiar themes: piracy and greed, a mother who’s a river nymph, and the fatal problems with water of her two grown children. “The Glass Bottle Trick,” a tale to delight Angela Carter, mixes Beauty and the Beast and Persephone and Pluto, telling of young Beatrice, a top student set on medical school; instead, she’s seduced into marriage with wealthy, twice-widowed Samuel, who thinks himself ugly, does not want children, and keeps his air-conditioned house sealed and so cold that insects refuse to enter. Much longer is “Fisherman,” no fable but rather an erotic tale that goes on and on, about a fisherman losing his virginity in a whorehouse, a story that teases and teases because it has but one secret to reveal and whose highlight turns on a splendidly arresting physical act most readers would find improbable—until one thinks about it. And some may even have done it. “Precious” is a variation on the Midas theme: Isobel and her sister are both blessed and cursed when they give water to an old crone. The sister later spits out bats, spiders and lizards while Isobel, whose greedy husband calls her Precious, spits out diamonds, rubies, even bars of platinum, whenever she speaks. So she remains mute while her husband goads her to talk. The richly veined “Greedy Choke Puppy” makes clear how folklore feeds real magic into everyday Caribbean life.
These wonderful duppy and jumby things leave you with a belly full of good feelings, like dumplings bobbing in you like you’ve never tasted before.