Writing about supernatural creatures and events has its own peculiar challenges. Beginning writers know that the biggest hurdle is trying to inject humanity into those creatures, and that’s where they almost always go wrong. Humanity cannot be injected into or imposed upon characters; it has to spring organically. The reader has to see it, feel it, and know it. Having read much of Alex Jeffers’s previous work, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem for him. That Door is a Mischief may have one foot planted in Fairyland, but it has a very human heart.
Liam Shea is a fairy–the kind with golden eyes, green blood, dragonfly wings, and an adverse reaction to iron. Gay? Well, he might be that as well. His dads, now split up, definitely are. Through an episodic series of linked short stories, we follow Liam from childhood to adolescence to what might or might not be death as he finds love and family and walks between fairyland and our world.
The first three installments: “The Wild Fairy,” “The Ordinary Boy,” and “His Dads” lay the foundation by exploring Liam’s origins (a baby who died during birth but was switched out with a fairy changeling) and his difficult adolescence due to any number of differences distinguishing him from his friends. One might assume the book continues to be an interesting exercise into fantasy. With “The Changeling,” however, another far darker dimension opens up. Liam’s fairy puberty results in a type of pon farr, and his sexual awakening turns both polyamorous (he mates with both a male and a female human who have been turned out of the fairy world for some transgressions) and violent as the male dies and his body deposited through the doorway into fairyland.
From here on out, Liam straddles the border between his world and ours. Along the way, he falls in love, marries, divorces and remarries a man who bullied him as a boy, finds himself a pornographer as well as a gardener, takes care of foundlings society has washed up on their doorstep, and becomes a frequent visitor to the other land, which seems to repel him as much as attract him. I tried to pull a paragraph or two from the sections describing these lands but found they required context for their power. That said, Jeffers has a remarkable talent for setting that otherworldly scene. His prose is literary yet accessible and not pedantic.
More importantly, his characters never become caricatures. They never lose their essential human qualities, so they never seem less than universal. And he never loses sight of his characters. In the last installment, “His Husband,” the number of offspring by marriage and/or relationships threatens to overwhelm, but Jeffers reins it back just in time, delivering a finale as dramatic as it is satisfying. That Door is a Mischief is a remarkable read full of magic, wonder, and terrible beauty. Highly recommended.
© 2015 Jerry L. Wheeler