One great short story to read today: Helen Oyeyemi’s “Books and Roses”

Drew Broussard

May 7, 2024, 10:30am

According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, for the second year in a row, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free* to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

Books and Roses” by Helen Oyeyemi

This was the first thing of Oyeyemi’s that I ever read, and it’s a perfect introduction to her coolly magical style. It is also one of the rare stories to have a genuine impact on my life: as I wrote about recently, I was taken by her description of St. Jordi’s Day and suggested to my then-girlfriend that we make it our romantic tradition instead of Valentine’s Day. Fast-forward and we’re married, and we still give each other books and roses (well, flowers anyway) every April 23rd. Maybe you’ll start doing that, too.

The story begins:

Once upon a time in Catalonia a baby was found in a chapel. This was over at Santa Maria de Montserrat. It was an April morning. And the baby was so wriggly and minuscule that the basket she was found in looked empty at first glance. The child had got lost in a corner of it, but courageously wriggled her way back up to the top fold of the blanket in order to peep out. The monk who found this basket searched for an explanation. His eyes met the wooden eyes of the Virgin of Montserrat, a mother who has held her child on her lap for centuries, a gilded child that doesn’t breathe or grow. In looking upon that great lady the monk received a measure of her unquestioning love and fell to his knees to pray for further guidance, only to find that he’d knelt on a slip of paper that the baby had dislodged with her wriggling.

Read it here.

*If you hit a paywall, we recommend trying with a different/private/incognito browser (but listen, you didn’t hear it from us).

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