The small town of Portero, Texas is a world of doorways, of monstrous creatures, of strange bits of magic, a town where everyone wears black (with the exception of the green-clad heroes of the Mortmaines) and any outsiders are regarded with deep suspicion. Kit and Fancy Cordelle were born and raised in Portero but they might as well be transies; as the daughters of Portero’s own Bonesaw Killer, most people think they belong right there on death row with their daddy.
Most people might be right.
The Cordelle sisters have inherited things from both sides of the family, including their father’s sociopathology and extreme violence. As far as they’re concerned, where their daddy went wrong was in getting caught. When they discover a doorway that could help them hide all evidence, the stage is set for a killing spree of epic proportions- if boys and growing up don’t drive them apart first.
Slice of Cherry, by Dia Reeves, is one of those strange books that I really enjoyed reading, but through the entire process and even after the book is done, I can’t figure out if I actually liked it or not. It wasn’t that I actively disliked it, but that I’m unsure if I actively liked it.
There’s a lot to love. The relationship between the Cordelle sisters is beautifully drawn, starting with the sense of oneness that comes of being ostracized and being close with many of the same outlets. As time goes by, though, other things start to intrude and the relationship grows more complicated. The way Fancy clings to that oneness, to her sense of childhood, makes sense, as does older sister Kit’s burgeoning interest in a wider world. Even the violence that characterizes them, and the very different ways they express it, makes a sort of sense.
Portero is a deliciously bizarre world, one that in some ways seems to fit in very neatly with what we might expect of a small Texas town, and in other ways is just completely off the wall. It’s consistent, and after a while, the wacky lulls you into a calm acceptance of the strange town. The dialect is gorgeous and really sets the atmosphere in place. Fancy’s “happy place” and her dream diary are wonderful tools,, both of which add incredibly disturbing layers to the action and the characters.
I didn’t so much love the Turner brothers. I liked- really liked- that they forced Kit and Fancy’s relationship into a state of change. I enjoyed than Ilan is really the only person to see through Fancy’s baby doll dressed and hair ribbons. For the rest, though, from the inevitable sense of double dating to the fact that they’re the sons of the Bonesaw Killers last victim, it felt very contrived. they have the patent sense of the bizarre that everyone in Portero has, as well as a sense of violence that meshes well with the Cordelle sisters, but even that feels a little forced, or perhaps the natural aspects were just pushed too far.
This book is definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart. I’m not someone who watches horror films or slasher flicks, which could account for a lot of my mixed feelings for this book, but there’s violence and gore enough for anyone’s macabre side. The sisters develop a rather sick inventiveness in their grisly escapades. While many of these episodes display a certain sense of the appropriate (or at least a twisted kind of justice), some moments were enough to make me shudder and close the book for a while, which is very unusual for me. (My mother used to regale us with surgeries over the dinner table- spaghetti nights were the worst; you figure if you can get through that, you can get through anything).
Even after writing this review, I still can’t decide if I like it or not. But you know? That’s okay. Ambivalence lends its own kind of afterthought, and this is definitely a book that will stick around in my head for a while. For fans of Portero, there’s an earlier book called Bleeding Violet; we briefly meet that main character here but if you haven’t read that first, no worries. Slice of Cherry stands well on its own, rendering that brief moment into an Aha! for those in the know, but it’s not an obstacle for those meeting Portero for the first time.
If you have a strong stomach and a somewhat macabre sense of humor, definitely check this one out. If you still cry when the hunters shoot Bambi’s mother, you might want to look elsewhere.
Until next time~