All I really have to say is, dear Gods, do not let this be your first Sedgwick book.
It is dense. It is confusing. If you’re not prepared it will grab you and race madly down a spiral staircase (see what I did there) while laughing maniacally and you better hope you can just hang on until you get to the end. I even understood all of it and I was still left going, “What the fuck did I just read?” when I closed the book. It was a very peculiar feeling.
I was boring and read all stories in the order they’re presented in the book. If I owned my own copy I’d probably go back one day and read them in a different order; this is the type of book that I’d probably come away with something new each time I read it.
It’s probably up there with Midwinterblood as my favorite Sedgwick novel. He just does better when he takes short stories or interconnected novellas and presents them as a whole book. She Is Not Invisible was fine, but it definitely hasn’t lingered in my memory like Midwinterblood and The Ghosts of Heaven will.
As for my favorite stories, the two that stuck out most were the one with the poet, and the last story with the astronaut. (If I still had the book I would try to get the story names, but alas.) The astronaut story freaked me out the most, since being in space and having things go very wrong is a HUGE fear of mine. I really enjoyed the relationship between the POV doctor and one of his patient’s in the insane asylum. The witch story and the beginning story are fine, but they didn’t really fill me with dread as much as the other two did. Not to mention that the witch story was kind of predictable, full of the cliches we all know very well.
Still, I did enjoy this novel, and the way it all eventually came together and how the stories clearly mirrored each other. There’s a very real sense of claustrophobia in the stories; literally, as in the case of the astronaut and the spaceship, or the asylum, or a cave the Paleolithic girl finds herself in, or more figuratively, as in the small village the witch lives in. Everyone is stuck in a very small space that’s suddenly toppled over by the spirals, and those small spaces can doom them.
Tackle this one after you have one or two other Sedgwick’s under your belt, and make sure you’re ready for a mindfuck when you open the book.