In Nethercott's Thistlefoot, estranged siblings Bellatine and Isaac Yaga find their way back to each other within this odd, dark story that is steeped in Jewish folklore.
"It's wild, isn't it...how there are all these stories that played out before we even existed. And their residue is all around us, all the time, but we don't even know it. Sometimes I wonder how much of me is my own, you know?"
This recently published debut novel from Gennarose Nethercott is heavy on Eastern European folklore and feels like an immersive fairy tale with modern references (for example, cell phones).
In Thistlefoot, estranged siblings Bellatine, a woodworker with mysterious powers, and Isaac, a con artist and street performer with his own magic, are reunited to claim a mysterious, bizarre inheritance: a sentient house on chicken legs.
You're going to have to roll with that premise for Thistlefoot to work for you, and if you're up for it, there are a lot of delights here.
Thistlefoot is a strange, epic, often dark adventure tale with roots in Jewish folklore, and puppets (which may or may not come to life at times) and the story they're used to tell are central to the plot.
Bellatine and Isaac find their way back to each other, bonded by trying to untangle the dangerous, sentimental, mysterious circumstances surrounding the house's existence. They find unlikely allies who are also seeking the truth about the house--and who want to protect its legacy from those who would destroy it.
This, as always, is only one version of the memory. Funny, how truth changes in the telling. How a person becomes a myth, how a myth becomes a hero. Do not mistake Baba Yaga for the hero of my stories. She is not. She is not the villain, either. She is only a woman. Sometimes, one cannot know until retelling what was right and what was wrong.
Thistlefoot includes some scenes in which World War II atrocities are central; delves into the desperation and cruelties of those who have struggled to America, imagining their salvation; and explores the binds of family and history.
I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley.
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If you like magical realism and folklore, you might also like the books on my Greedy Reading List Six Magical Fairy Tales Grown-Ups Will Love.