Review: Orpheus Girl

Hello readers!

Like most of the internet, I’ve recently been obsessed with a little Broadway musical called Hadestown. It’s a grimy, rusty, modernish retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth from classical Greek mythology–you know the one: boy meets girl, boy and girl get married, girl dies, boy travels to the Underworld and sings for girl’s soul, god says girl can go with boy so long as boy doesn’t turn to look behind him on the way out….boy looks behind him. Proper Greek tragedy. No happy endings here.

I love terribly sad things, so when an ARC of Orpheus Girl, by Brynne Rebele-Henry came into the store, sitting innocently on the desk with its gorgeous cover and intriguing title, I immediately picked it up. Orpheus and Eurydice, except they’re both girls? So it’s gay!? YES, PLEASE. I assumed I was in for a neatly reimagined retelling, but what I found instead was…beautiful.

More inspired by the myth than a direct retelling, the book follows the story of Raya (Orpheus) and Sarah (Eurydice), as their relationship is discovered by their conservative, small-town, small-minded families, and they are sent to re-reducation camp (the Underworld)–where they can be taught the error of their lesbian ways and come back “normal.” Except, they both know that for them, lesbian is normal, and they’re determined to escape. And while Raya doesn’t have to sing for their souls, she does encounter character allegories for the rest of the mythological characters and an interesting twist on the doomed escape of the original story. It was beautiful to watch unfold, to puzzle out what character represented who in the original myth, to know the end and be surprised anyway. It was a gorgeously constructed book, and packed a punch into its mere 176 pages.

Brynne Rebele-Henry is a poet and wow, does it show. This book is dreamy and wavering, like a heat mirage, like the shadows of trees on a sidewalk; it’s lovely and lazy, but grows in urgency as it progresses, just like Raya and Sarah’s attempts to escape. It feels like a modern myth should–slow and atmospheric until it isn’t, until the horror of what’s happening creeps up on you and you realize, like the water in the shower suddenly turning cold. It’s beautiful and definitely feels like a series of stream of consciousness prose poems, in the best way possible.

(And I know it’s spoilers, but I think it’s important for people to know–there’s a happy ending. Queer stories don’t get those often, and if that will convince you to trust this author and pick up this gorgeous book, then it’s worth the spoiler.)

–Megan

You can purchase Orpheus Girl online or call the store to reserve a copy!

Happy reading!

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