review: tender by sofia samatar


I am incapable of reading anything Sofia Samatar writes without the tumbling headlong desire to put my whole body into her words, to dissolve into them like salt into the waves, to be subsumed so completely into something so aching and grieving and beautiful.

I spent 6 long months reading this short-story collection, because the language is so sensuous, so rich and profuse with feeling I didn’t want to miss a second of it, I wanted to carry each word in my mouth and savor it for hours like an exquisite unfamiliar delicacy. And because I would go back routinely to my favorite stories, rereading passages several times to fix them into my memory and growing so filled with awe and heartache I’d want to cry out at the unbearable beauty of it. “Walkdog” broke me open in ways I did not anticipate. “Olimpia’s Ghost” made me long for poetry in an absurdly intense way. “The Red Thread” left me drunk with melancholy, reciting the words “Belonging, Fox. It hurts” until they curdled in my mouth. “Meet me in Iram” and “Cities of Emerald, Deserts of Cold” are the stories that spoke of the things that haunt me the most, and the ones my thoughts often circled around, full of ghosts and cities and land and absence and belonging.

To read a Sofia Samatar story is to fill your whole world with it, and to feel inconsolably bereft once you depart from it. Though, I suspect, it is impossible to depart from her stories–not completely anyway, not all the way.

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