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My February column is up and includes Christopher Barzak's collection Before and Afterlives. I was struck while writing my review by one particular passage in "The Map of Seventeen" as a father and daughter discuss her brother's homosexual relationship:

"Are you okay with that?" I asked.

"Can't not be," he said. "Not an option."

"Who says?"

"I need no authority figure on that," said Dad. "You have a child and, no matter what, you love them. That's just how it is."

"That's not how it is for everyone, Dad."

"Well thank the dear Lord I'm not everyone," he said. "Why would you want to live like that, with all those conditions on love?"

I didn't know what to say. He'd shocked me into silence the way I could always shock him into laughter. We had that effect on each other, like yin and yang. My dad's a good guy, likes the simpler life, seems pretty normal. He wears Allis Chalmers tractor hats and flannel shirts and jeans. He likes oatmeal and meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. Then he opens his mouth and turns into Buddha. I swear to God, he'll do it when you're least expecting it. I don't know sometimes whether he's like me and Tommy, hiding something different about himself but just has all these years of experience to make himself blend in. Like maybe he's an angel beneath that sun-browned, beginning-to-wrinkle human skin. "Do you really feel that way?" I asked. "It's one thing to say that, but is it that easy to truly feel that way?"

"Well it's not what you'd call easy, Meg. But It's what's right. Most of the time doing what's right is more difficult than doing what's wrong."

Price of the book is worth it right there for that exchange, don't you think? Magic.

See the full column here - it's all about Alice in Wonderland, selkies, mermaids and princesses. None of these books are what you're thinking, promise.


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