Johanna Debiase uses magical realism and the art of storytelling in a way that is both disturbing and refreshing in this novella. A fairy tale sits at the heart of this story and the mysterious hole seems to be symbolic of birth, death and rebirth. We come from a hole and, at the end, we are put into a hole (Is that too crass? Who knows. I was pumped full of epidural at the time so I had "the cheap seats" in that experience, as Lorelai would say). That abyss is something that beckons us every day from the moment we're born... and some of us make an active choice to seek it's oblivion (Mama) and some of us slip into it regardless of how hard we fight (Tree).
The voice of Tree lent an especially interesting point-of-view to this story. It made me think about how throughout our lives, we are unknowingly on a stage... a play that others are watching. This thought gave me a new perspective on how we live our everyday lives and what our actions say to those around us.
DeBiase's writing was lyrical yet accessible and I feel she was able to successfully speak as an adult, a child... and an inanimate object. Her writing style and her ability to put herself into various voices so seamlessly and so dynamically leaves me excited for what else I can expect from this author.
In a narrative interwoven with fairytales, the lines that divide memories from dreams blur in the fourth book of the Wordcraft of Oregon Fabulist Novella Series, Mama & the Hungry Hole, by Johanna DeBiase. Julia is 4-years-old and her Mama has stolen her away to the mountains of northern New Mexico where everything is unfamiliar and everyone is unknown. Lonely and often forced to take care of herself during Mama's many "quiet times," Julia befriends a tree. Tree has been around longer than anyone and witnessed the village change from thriving ranching town to hippie commune to bedroom community. When Julia's Nana comes to visit and a traveling Circus moves in next door it seems like everything will change for the better, but Tree is the first to notice the eerie sensation of nothingness deep beneath its roots.