Tender Morsels Paperback – Feb 9 2010
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Starred Review, Booklist, August 1, 2008:
“A marvel to read and will only further solidify Lanagan’s place at the very razor’ s edge of YA speculative fiction.”
Starred Review, The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2008:
"Lanagan's poetic style and her masterful employment of mythic imagery give this story of transformation and healing extraordinary depth and beauty."
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, September 8, 2008:
"Lanagan explores the savage and the gentlest sides of human nature, and how they coexist."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2008:
"By turns horrifying and ribald, witty and wise, this tour de force of a novel almost demands multiple readings to fully appreciate each of its layers."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 2008:
"Beautifully written and surprising, this is a novel not to be missed."
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Margo Lanagan’s story collection, Red Spikes, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book and a Horn Book Fanfare, and Black Juice was a Printz Honor Book. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Liga's life has not been easy. Her mother died young, her father abuses her. Two of her pregnancies are aborted, but not the third. Her father dies. Liga is gang-raped, and becomes pregnant again. In her despair, she decides to throw herself and her baby off a cliff thus ending their miserable lives. But instead of dying, Liga and her baby are spirited to an alternate safe world where people are kind. In this world, Liga brings up her two daughters the peaceful Branza and the restless Urdda.
But while this alternate world is as Liga would have it, it is not impermeable. Witchcraft breaches the world, and first the thieving dwarf, Collaby Dought, and then a kind boy transformed into a bear. Collaby Dought visits more than once, but the first transformed bear leaves, and is followed by another entirely different transformed bear. And, while searching, Urdda finds a way out of this world back into the real world. Eventually, Liga and Branza must also rejoin the real world.
`It is required of you only to be here, not to be happy.'
Betrayal, incest and rape are the dark and confronting themes in this young adult novel, and the redeeming power of love also features. The real world is not always a comfortable place, but it isn't always unsafe. And there are ways of achieving safety. The magic provides a buffer for readers, enabling the issues to be identified without being overwhelming.
`Tender Morsels' is a powerful novel and like all good fairy tales confronts good and evil.Read more ›
Because of this, Liga is made a mother too early. In an act of desperation, Liga decides to kill her first child, believing that she will be better off in another place. A magic "moon-babby" takes pity on Liga and offers her an alternate universe to raise her daughters.
For many years, Urdda, Branza, and Liga are safe; no one can do them harm. Eventually, the boundaries of their world are infiltrated, and the three women must leave their paradise. Their new task; to survive in a world full of both cruelty and kindness, something that Liga thought she would never have to face again.
The basis for TENDER MORSELS is the story of Snow White and Rose Red. Two sisters must battle a dwarf and rescue a man from a witch's curse. Lanagan has included these pivotal plot details while still making the story her own.
There are many interesting twists that Lanagan has included in the novel. Her use of vocabulary and language is also very unique. The story may appear daunting to readers at first, but those who give it a chance will be greatly rewarded.
Reviewed by: LadyJay
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And the characters -- hoo, the characters. They are vivid, passionate, flawed, sometimes randy (but never gratuitous), and fiercely devoted to their hearts' desires. Desires tangled with magic, though, turn out to have more power than any one of them have bargained for.
It's been almost a week, and I am still basking and soaking in this story. It is deep, thick, and heavy, but not in the ways that makes reading tiresome. It isn't a book you finish and set aside -- you surface from it and wait for it to roll off you. (I know, I know -- I'm going all purple and gushy. Plus I've overshot my adjective quota without ever managing to work in "visceral." Crap.)
An about face: I am somewhat loathe to admit this is not a book for everyone. Not by a long shot. The switching points of view, the nature of the abuse Liga weathers, and the spattering of old world Britishy-Irishy dialect each have the potential to deter a number of readers.
However, if you loved the themes of sweetness and brutality in The Giver, the robust characters and setting of The Moorchild, and the emotional tone of Donna Jo Napoli's fairy tale-based novels, I'd lay odds you'll be content to envelop yourself for a few days in Tender Morsels. It is quite possibly THE best reading experience I've had so far this year.
That's the opening of the book. It's hard to read.
The first time I checked this book out of the library, I couldn't read the whole thing. Long before the gang-rape and attempted suicide, I returned the book. I didn't decide to check it out again until the Common Sense debacle with Barnes and Noble came out. Still, I didn't get around to actually checking it out until a few weeks ago. I was determined to get through the horrible parts so that I could see Liga in her heaven, and after reading all of that, I needed to see Liga in her heaven. So many other readers had said that the wretched beginning is worth it once you get to the rest of the story , not to mention that I figured the whole book couldn't be ruined by the opening, given its many awards.
It is worth it.
The rest of the story is a fairytale. It is actually based on Snow White and Rose Red. Once Liga's daughters are old enough to have personalities, Tender Morsels becomes their story. It is about Branza and Urdda learning who they are as people and learning how to make their own way in what is, literally, their mother's world. Their story is beautiful, and I think the ugliness that preceeds it helps to make it so. Urdda grows up to be the awesomely headstrong and smart young woman that I always look for in book. I want a whole other book full of her, especially once she leaves her mother's heaven. Branza's nice too, but I clearly have my favorite.
But here is my dilemma: By the end, I really liked this book and I would love to recommend it, but to whom? I don't agree with the Common Sense rating at Barnes and Noble, that Tender Morsels is not appropriate for anyone under 18, but I do think that I may hesitate to recommend it to young adults that I do not know extremely well. That said, this book will have its readers, both teen and adult.
Book source: Philly Free Library
If you do give this book to someone on the younger side of "young adult" be prepared to discuss some of the issues that arise in it with them. As other reviewers have stated, there is incest, rape, forced abortions, contemplations of suicide, and borderline bestiality. The audience for this book is not the same as say, Ella Enchanted or Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast or The Goose Girl. If you want a fairy tale re-telling that is funny, or adventurous, or romantic, this story is NOT the right story for you.
So who is the audience for this book? I think that those who like the SNOW WHITE, BLOOD RED (CREED S.) series of adult fairy tale re-tellings are good candidates to like (maybe even love) this book as well.
So far, it sounds like I hated the book, but obviously, giving it four stars, I didn't. It is beautifully-written and very powerful. I'm still thinking about it even though I finished reading it over a week ago. It's the kind of book I think I'll probably come back to years from now to re-read, and I know I'll get something different out of it than I did the first time through.
Now living alone, Liga gives birth to her baby, Branza, though misfortune still lurks around the corner. She gets raped by five town boys, and is soon pregnant again. Devasted, Liga attempts to kill herself and her baby, because life is too cruel for either of them to live. However, a mysterious force prevents her from doing so, and takes her to her own person heaven, a safe place where all evils and woes are gone. There, she gives birth to Urdda, her fiery second daughter. As the years pass by, Liga raises her two daughters in the safe world of her personal heaven. However, greedy men and magicked bears intrude on their barriers, whether accidental or not, and Liga's heavenly life is turned upside down.
Tender Morsels was fantastic. The prose was unusual but extraordinary, and captured the darkness and brutality of this tale. The prologue was quite confusing since the writing was so lyrical, so I had to reread it a few times to understand it. (If you go back and reread it after you finish the book, it makes a lot more sense.) However, once that was out of the way, the first few pages were extremely grim; they documented Liga's sexual abuse and miscarriages, though I was mesmerized by the disturbingness. The author does a pretty good job of skirting around the actual rape scenes, and tends to describe the traumatic effects opposed to the action. The characters are deep, realistic, and flawed, and all have their motivations. After I finished reading the book, I just sat there for a moment, slowly surfacing out of the rich world that Tender Morsels takes place in. This book is rich and hearty, like soup, and will keep your belly full of thoughts and questions for the next few days.
My favorite character was Urdda, because she was so fiery! She never hesitating in asking for the truth, and loved the spirit of adventure. Branza was more gentle, like her mother Liga, but just as realistic. The character of Bullock bothered me, for some reason, maybe because he seemed a little too bland.
I rated this book only four stars because I was not partial to the ending. Though I won't unleash any spoilers, it seemed abrupt, and everybody ended up doing the wrong things and with the wrong people. Also, Branza still seemed to yearn for life in heaven, and many of her questions still lay unanswered, all because she didn't want to press her mom for the details. This goes against the message that the book seems to say, which is that shelter from the harsh truth is never good.
I'm a fan of dark re-tellings. I loved Brom's The Child Thief and often recommend it. I'll be recommending Tender Morsels as well, but not to as many folks - as this retelling makes Brom's look like it's child's play.
Although not-explicit, there is brutal attacks and incest in this book - in fact it's the springboard for the story. To Lanagan's credit, the story doesn't revolve around these horrible acts, but they are always there and present in the background.
At times it was confusing and I had to go back and re-read several pages to figure out who's point of view I was reading, but each time I did so I found a new passage or turn of phrase that made it worth while. This is a beautifully written book, just not a book for everyone. I cannot imagine handing this story off to a young teenager with an "Enjoy!".
This story spoke to me, especially these days when I am feeling down and depressed and like life has really kicked me hard. I catch myself wishing for a heaven of my own, as Liga found, but when all is said and done, I wouldn't give up my life, my family, the hardships and the joys for something of sheltering and imperfect peace. Although I wish I was an Urdda, I know I am more of a Branza, a girl who thinks she wants the quiet and peace of an imaginary heaven but really needs to experience life here.