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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > March 2019 > All in the family

All in the family

Two novels employ genre tropes to tell stories about the fractures and resiliency inherent in our closest relationships

The Migration

Helen Marshall

Random House Canada

The Homecoming

Andrew Pyper

Simon & Schuster Canada

FAMILY BONDS are among the strongest and most enduring in the human experience. Blood relations, certainly – mother, father, siblings – but also those among chosen families that consist of spouses and adopted children or non-traditional family units. It is no surprise that humans who develop close working relationships with a small cadre of others refer to their colleagues as being “like a family.” It is equally unsurprising that negative experiences within a family unit can have lifelong deleterious effects on the individuals involved.

Two new novels from established genre writers explore the shifting nature of these attachments in the context of stories that apply powerful stress tests to their durability and longevity. The Migration, by World Fantasy Award winner Helen Marshall, and The Homecoming, by bestselling novelist Andrew Pyper, both have siblings as their beating hearts, and both examine familial relationships through the prism of horror.

Of the two, Marshall’s novel is the stranger and more esoteric. This should come as no surprise to readers familiar with her story collections Hair Side, Flesh Side and Gifts for the One Who Comes After, which contain tales incorporating aspects of fable, dark fantasy, and myth. In her debut novel, Marshall adapts these elements to a narrative that simultaneously lirts with dystopia and reckons with mortality.

The sisters who serve as the story’s main drivers are 17-year-old Sophie Perella and her preteen sibling, Kira. After Kira is diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic immunodeiciency syndrome, a global pandemic that affects exclusively young people, the girls’ mother spirits them away from Toronto (and their father, who remains behind) and relocates them to Oxford, U.K., where their Aunt Irene works as a professor studying the history of epidemics, most particularly the Black Plague.

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