Tantony by Ananda Braxton-Smith was sent to me by Stephanie at Read in a Single Sitting. It arrived in my mailbox (well actually it was on the floor in front of my mailbox because my mailbox is rather small being in an apartment complex where a little metal door holds the magic to bills and invoices for doctor visits). Stephanie wrote an intriguing review of Tantony, and offered to send me a copy if I could not find one myself. I was unable to locate a copy of the book, and true to her word, Stephanie shipped the book to me. The package arrived on my birthday. A fortunate coincidence for more than one reason, as I had seen a driver nearly run over a drunk girl crossing the street not ten minutes before getting home.
My desk already had a large stack of books neatly piled on top of it, some of them library books due back in a hot minute. I added Tantony to the pile and didn’t pick it up until after Christmas. Frankly, though there are only 221 pages in the book, it took me several weeks to finish because it is not an easy book to read. It is not a light book or a fun book. It is an amazing, moving, thought provoking, and beautiful story. But it is not fun. So every morning I stuck it in my purse, boarded the train, and sat there next to people with the sniffles, people with bulky black coats that pushed me into the window, people reading romance novels, and people checking Facebook on smart phones. Tantony sat in my purse, some mornings I even pulled it out and read a chapter as the train wheels clicked by, the telephone poles looped past, and the masses crowded onto the train and then left in a heaving horde.
The contrast of the people I was surrounded by, the very life I was living, to that of Fermion Quirk on The Moaney speaking Manxsurrounded by bog, and dealing with a twin who was bipolor, made my train rides surreal. After finishing a short chapter, I would shove the book back into my purse and refuse to read any more. For a while.
Some days I didn’t even pull the book out of my purse. I left it to linger there, as Fermoin and her world lingered in my mind.
Tantony is the story of Fermoin’s grief after she finds her brother dead. Though a twin, he was much of a stranger to Fermoin. Some people thought he spoke with angels, some that he spoke to demons. But Boson was only ever speaking to the birds. He heard things that other people could not. And so he was called a Monster. Fermoin discovered that other monsters had been born, existed, and were exiled from the island she lived on with her parents. The monsters were sent off to sea. Fermoin longed to figure out what happened to all the Monsters, hoping that knowledge of them would help her to figure out why her brother was dead. So, despite being a Quirk, and in spite of the fact that Quirks were not sea-going folk, Fermoin set off to sea.
Fermoin maked many discoveries in her adventures and her talks with old ladies in red felt down by the shore. She learned of life’s mysteries, she learned what it is she was for, and she learned what Monsters really are. They are merely others. People who have stepped off the bog path and refused to mold themselves to a standard. She discovered that:
There’s no saving anybody. There’s all frights and joying you can do together, the journeys and returns, the great fogs and whale-waves and hunts for gods and monsters, but there’s no saving anybody.[ . . . .]Later, there’s remembering them and how they were.
I finally finished the last page in the book, the last sentence, and realized that I had made many discoveries too. I had learned that life is full of Monsters, which is a good thing. I learned that people who step off the bog path have a chance of drowning, but they also have the chance of hearing the music that the water plays in the reeds. I discovered, that in each of us resides a Monster, wishing to be different and unique and also paying the price when other people discover what makes us special.
The tunnel lights flickered past, the music of many people surrounded my senses, and I felt a kind of wistful connection to all the Monsters that shared the train with me.