The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods • 2020 • short story by Maria Dahvana Headley

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

First sentence: Gods won’t save you. Gods will break you. Nevertheless, you will persist, and become anew. This is the first myth: that your boyfriend from when you were fifteen will come and get you out of hell. 

Synopsis: Ah, the perils of females falling in love. With gods or sorts of. That first sentence hints at Orpheus and Eurydice, and for the rest of the story you should have a book of Greek mythology with you. 

There’s Icarus, Zeus (who’s still got an AOL account), and the likes, all transported somehow to a freshman college dating the girl which the story addresses in second person future tense. 

You’ll ignore what you know, and get it on with Icarus in an extra-long single dorm bed. When he rolls off, there will not be any room for you on the mattress, so you’ll sleep on the floor.

Review: Those half-riddles about Greek myths were highly amusing for me, addressing imperfect relationships. Think of Icarus passing on chlamydia, and Zeus’s ex-wife turning girlfriends into cows. 

But then, the last part gets serious.

You’ll bed down in an abandoned underworld, gutting fish from Styx and cooking them over the fire you make of the books bad boyfriends bought you. You’ll blaze the Bukowski, and fling the Fellini into Phlegethon. You’ll melt down your old wedding ring, and forge it into a claw.

This would deserve a deeper literary analysis, but I let it play out to not cancel the change of mood and atmosphere. Let us leave it with the somewhat unoriginal “love hurts” and just admire the lyrical narration. 

You stand at the mouth of your own cave, looking out over your own kingdom. You step off the cliff when you feel like it, and you spread your wings and soar.

Recommended for readers of girl-power stories who don’t need a plot whatsoever. 

Meta: isfdb. Available online at Finalist for the Locus Award.

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2 Responses to The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods • 2020 • short story by Maria Dahvana Headley

  1. pdtillman says:

    You’re certainly right about no plot! I started skimming & finally gave up. Not for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andreas says:

    I often like concept driven stories, so that might be a difference here.


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