Title: Selkie Stories Are for Losers
Author: Sofia Samatar
Published: 7. January 2013 by Strange Horizons
Read: February 15, 2014
Length: 3108 words, short story
Format: Free online fiction
This is the part of my 100 Short Stories in 2014 challenge.
This story is both so hopeful and sad at the same time. The review is kind of spoilery because it is really hard to talk about this short a story without spoiling something + there is very little plot and it is all about the emotions.
The protagonist (who remains unnamed as far as I can figure out) is a young woman who works at a restaurant after finishing high school. She is in love with her friend Mona, but dares not do anything about it. Her mother who is a selkie left her and her father one day years ago. Mona and our protagonist dreams about going to Colorado together. That is pretty much the gist of the story, however the story is all about the emotions, not about any plot line.
Mona is a quite independent young woman of Egyptian descent. She fear that her mother (who is suicidal) will take her back to Egypt. Somehow I couldn’t help falling in love with her though our protagonist’s eyes. Together the girls share their pain of absent mothers and dream about going somewhere else of being somewhere else away from their everyday. From the sound of it the protagonist’s father is there, but really not after her mother left.
Her mother is a selkie you see, so when she got her skin back she left her land-life behind and ran for the sea. For the protagonist that is doubly hard because she was the one to find the skin and she of course blames herself for the lose or her mother.
This is the kind of story, where I can’t decide if this a metaphor or not. But for once I think the ambiguity adds to the story rather than make me grumpy. I am pretty sure that the mother is actually a selkie in the story, however I am not sure that is what the story is about. I think the story is really about trying to escape your circumstances. About dealing with parents who are not being parents because their own problems fills all of their life – like Mona’s mom.
I liked the story a lot. I liked the ambiguity. And I liked that the protagonist was pining for her best friend, not quite daring to take the first step, because in selkie stories, kisses never solves anything.
I was very happy to learn that Selkie Stories Are for Losers were nominated for a Hugo Award, because it was a really enjoyable story. So congratulations Sofia Samatar.
The author: Female, POC, Canada
The protagonist: Female, lesbian, waiter, able-bodied.