This post is part of a blog tour organised by ZooLoo’s Book Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘In these short stories, Katy Wimhurst creates off-kilter worlds that illuminate our own.
‘Apocalyptic rabbits invade a town.
‘People overwhelmed by their lives float above an urban park.
‘A woman turns transparent after a virus.
‘The playful lens of magical realism is used to explore physical and mental illness and our fragile environment.’
A quick disclaimer before I commence my review of Let Them Float: I know Katy Wimhurst a little, as we’re members of the same local writing group! That said, I wouldn’t have signed up to blog about her new book if I thought I’d struggle to review it for any reason.
I really enjoyed Katy’s previous short story collection, Snapshots of the Apocalypse, a couple of years ago, and Let Them Float is equally engaging and imaginative.
The seven stories, varying in length from two to 67 pages, are infused with the author’s trademark offbeat ideas, brilliant descriptions, and witty observations.
While many of the pieces in Let Them Float share its predecessor’s end-of-days vibe, I’d describe this book’s overarching theme as ‘dealing with the unexpected’.
Encounters range from the outlandish (floating people; extreme rabbit overpopulation; an unusual-looking bubble; Jesus turning up to help with the gardening; uncouth, down-at-heel mermaids) to the more prosaic, and their attendant absurdities (developing a chronic illness; caring for a relative with dementia).
The characters in each story respond in interesting, recognisable ways. These often elicit laughs, but also convey more weighty messages about human behaviour.
In the title story, for example, characters react to the phenomenon of people floating above trees in the park with, variously, anger and wanting to forcibly restore normality; curiosity and wonder; and sympathy and even a desire to join the “floaters” up there.
Different versions of these responses can be found throughout the book, and put me in mind of how some people saw covid as an opportunity for permanent, meaningful change (working from home, staying local, mutual aid, and online events opening up possibilities for wellbeing, sustainability, and equality of access), while others just wanted to get back to how things had been before as soon as possible, and unfortunately seem to have won.
The principal story also speaks to relateable feelings of discontentment and disappointment. It focuses on three women – Isla, Nadine, and Sheila – whose lives haven’t turned out as they hoped.
Each can see the appeal of going into neutral as a “floater”, at least for a bit, ahead of a period of renewal. The parallels with mental illness (particularly dissociation and disengagement) and recovery totally chimed with me.
In Duskers, meanwhile, the author shares her own experience of chronic illness in a creative and highly effective way. People affected by a post-viral syndrome become visibly transparent, yet they still can’t seem to get doctors and loved ones to understand that there really is something wrong, and it’s not just a case of “pushing through”.
There are also messages about grief for the lives you had and were envisioning; getting to know, adapting to, and accepting your new limitations; and finding community and solidarity.
Let Them Float is enjoyable, thought-provoking, and saturated with meaning.