Tara Isabella Burton is one of the sharpest religion writers out there (here’s her Vox page), but she’s also a damn good fiction writer. I have longed for years to say, at year’s end, that I have read a novel that was published in the past year and I may manage to accomplish this with her upcoming novel Social Creature. I say this based on how much I enjoyed her short story “The Destroyer”, which you can find here.
Long before my mother destroyed the world, her experiments were quieter, more contained. They did not obliterate continents. They did not rack up the dead.
She began as a domestic researcher in the household of an Umbrian merchant, engineering fish with mirrored scales. She told me how he loved to see his own face reflected, one and then a thousand and then another hundred times; how he filled the fountains with so many that there was no room to breathe or swim; how she woke up one morning to find that they had devoured one another, and left the fountains overflowing with blood.