#8: My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

An important note before I continue my marathon of posting today: these books were not read in this order. I quickly pulled all the eligible books I've read from their various homes and tossed them next to my desk, grabbing at random to add to the blog. This one, for example, is a library book 3 weeks overdue. Cannonball Read: #8: My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due Tananarive Due is an author I've read quite a bit of work from. She constantly makes it into Best Of anthologies for horror and weird fiction; she falls firmly in the latter category. How else do you describe a story about an accidental eunuch being outed by his best friend so said best friend can turn on his girlfriend? She's exceptionally talented, but extremely dense and difficult to get. Her prose is tightly coiled like a tense spring, ready to explode into your eye at the slightest provocation, blinding you to what happened until you remove the shrapnel and unwind the evidence. Her character development in such short pieces is unmatched by her contemporaries, even if the overall intention of the story tends to rest just out of reach. Then I read My Soul to Keep. Now Due makes perfect sense. She's an idea writer. Her style of writing works best in the more open novel format, where she can take her time and begin to disarm that spring of confusion for you. I feel like, for the first time in my Cannonball Readings, I've discovered a novel I truly have a desire to revisit again and again. Lesson learned: a great writer is a great writer, regardless of the length of the work. Now if only I could spin that to convince people micro/flash fiction has merit, I'd be set for life. My Soul to Keep is the story of a family: David, Jessica, and Kira. They live a perfectly happy life in Florida, where David is a young retired college professor, Jessica is a newspaper reporter on the fast track to a Pulitzer, and Kira is their loving daughter. And then the dog dies. There is a bone of contention in the family: David is an atheist. Jessica's entirely family is very Christian. They have never approved of the relationship and even Jessica is beginning to question just who David is. David has a very strange past that doesn't quite add up. He has a secret that, if revealed, will threaten the lives of those he loves. A secret that has caused him pain and loss for hundreds and hundreds of years. David is a member of a tribe that was given the gift of immortality and dedicated their lives to improving their minds. When it's time for him to leave his mortal family, he has no choice. One way or the other, he will be brought back to Africa by himself. Unless he breaks his covenant. Due creates a captivating puzzle of a novel. She intentionally allows the readers to figure out smaller plot details long before they are revealed to act as red herrings to what is actually happening. She makes the reader feel incredibly smart and in on the secret before revealing how much more hasn't been made clear. You realize in the first 20 pages what David's secret is. You just have to read another 100 pages for him to admit to it, and another 80 pages beyond that to understand how it actually happened. And that's just the surface level of the novel. My Soul to Keep is a quick read, and a very enjoyable read at that. If you take it purely as an interesting story, you'll be perfectly satisfied. For my fellow lit nerds, this novel is a treasure trove of skillful manipulation, allusions, and imagery that could be studied again and again without ever fully grasping just what Due really did. It's the kind of novel you wish would make its way into the canon, so others will have the privilege of reading it and discovering how great it is.

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