Monday, December 7, 2009

The Necessary Beggar Proves Your Happiness

I read a lot of science fiction, and I also read from the regular fiction shelves, and usually you can tell within a few pages where you are. A lot has to do with the reader's expectations, and how much explanation is needed before introducing new things. But other times the only difference is who is writing the story; Margaret Atwood would be shocked to find her blatantly SF books shelved over there behind Asimov. The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick is labeled SF on the spine because Palwick writes for TOR, and therefore is a SF writer. The book has a ghost, so I guess that is accurate.

It's a story about family, forgiveness, and trust. The family is exiled to Earth because of a crime; because family is sacred, exiling a criminal means sending the entire family, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews into the unknown. They land in America, refugees beyond any hope of returning home, and more prosaically, without any hope of getting the proper documents to justify their existence. How they adapt, from the grandfather who loves his family both in success and in utter failure, to the seven year old who pledges herself to succeed as an American to help bring her family into balance, to the wretched Darotti, whose crime they were exiled for and whose suicide solves nothing and leaves him as a saddened ghost watching the family struggle. For a while I slowed down while reading because I couldn't see how to reconcile the different dilemmas, but in the end Palwick provides hope for almost everyone. A

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