Review: “And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe,” Gwendolyn Kiste

Rating: 5 out of 5

Gwendolyn Kiste’s horror short story collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is very intriguing and endlessly dark. There’s a woman who gives birth to birds. There are people who disappear, and society has decided that these people must be “deviants,” must have done something wrong. There’s a woman who tries to cope with her sister’s suicide.

One of my favorites is “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray,” in which the apples of one tree throw girls into endless sleep from which a prince’s kiss must wake them. Although maybe the princes aren’t always princes, and many of the girls never awaken. Yet the farmer who owns the orchard figures out how to make money from the mysterious events. This is such a beautiful fairy tale.

There’s a young woman who writes letters to the man in her cupboard. Another child goes missing. A woman discovers that the friend she caused to commit suicide years ago saw things a little differently–and isn’t resting peacefully. An odd five-day summer camp has profound effects on all of the children who go there–and ALL of the children must go.

There are women who live within other people’s skins. There are witches whose magic must go up against domestic abusers. There are girls who live in small towers that they must tote around with them. There’s a horror movie actress whose fan becomes completely obsessed with her. There’s a bride who isn’t so happy to be a bride.

These stories are at the creepy, dark, paranormal end of the horror spectrum. The characters tend to be quite vivid even within the short story format. I absolutely enjoyed this collection of horror stories, and I highly recommend it.

Content note for suicide, sexual assault, and domestic abuse.

All beautiful things end in fire.

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