Almost a set of short stories, this novel breaks into discrete episodes, centered on identity, love, and death. Jaqe has no identity until she meets Laurie, introduced and named by Mother Night; in that moment, she knows herself, and that she loves Laurie. But once Mother Night has become part of their lives, Laurie and Jaqe and their daughter Kate cannot live as other people do. Knowing Death, inevitably each of them seeks to use the knowledge, to bargain with Death, and to change the terms in the balance of life and death in the world. Pollack's characters, major and supporting, living, dead, and divine, are memorably human. As she transplants myths and folklore into a modern setting, she gives new life to old tales and a deeper meaning to a seemingly simple world.
Winner of the World Fantasy Award for best novel, 1997
Departing from the future society she traced in Unquenchable Fire and Temporary Agency (a Nebula Award finalist), Pollack imagines with flair a fantasy world sprawled across the back of a giant turtle. At a dance at a college in a city "in the eastern part of the turtle, not far from the sea," two young women, Laurie and Jaqe, meet and fall in love. They also meet Mother Night, who helps the couple cope with the obstacles strewn across their path by family and society. An older, redheaded woman who rides around on a motorcycle, surrounded by a crew of younger, similarly carrot-topped women, Mother Night is in fact Death. While she helps Laurie and Jaqe in their quest for peace and justice, she also brings about the early demise of one of the lovers, shortly after a baby daughter is born. Mother Night becomes a true godmother to this child, watching over her and disclosing to her secrets of the departed. Pollack's fairy-tale plot is resourceful and original, but here, as in her earlier fiction, the emphasis is on character as she portrays women's intimate relationships with one another with resonance and realism. This is another fine outing by one of the most gifted and sensitive fantasists working today.