A Review of Girls Who Don't Cry by Mandira Pattnaik

Rashi Rohatgi

Girls Who Don't Cry
by Mandira Pattnaik
Alien Buddha Press, 2023.

The first story of Mandira Pattnaik’s flash collection, Girls Who Don’t Cry (Alien Buddha Press, 2023), gives us a woman-made-goddess in a misty countryside, condemned by her tribe to feign sleep in exchange for adulation. In lines like “the men trudge the fog hills and bring in buckets of mist,” we are there, we are with the sleeper, Signedora; we can understand why she gave such a thankless duty a try. The book is a fractal hall of liminal spaces, sea creatures and humans melding together seamlessly, singing Bollywood tunes with tentacles trailing. In one, a mother struggles to witness her favorite child’s unraveling – in this case, the child is an actual crab-girl, her shell molting, but these details form a shell that protects lines like “My other kids say I love my crab-girl more, and am step-motherly to them.” In another, a sister is “water, the cloud in the sky, the soup in the bowl,” shifting, and yet, for her sisters, steady and true. Pattnaik’s timing is impeccable, her stories often tightly focused on the moments in a relationship we might miss: a loved one’s busy signals as pigeons take flight, the faint rust red embarrassment of an innocent girl’s rare innuendo, the circles a lover left behind in a refugee camp etches onto her skin to keep hope of reunion alive. If her characters cry, they do so off-page, but one believes, somehow, in the lives of these women unmarred by tears. The collection is comprised of stories both previously published – in journals including Ellipsis Zine and Reflex Fiction – and new, and their intricate, ethereal constructions would appeal to Waxwing readers as well.

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