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Nadya
Pat Murphy
Narrated by Kirsten Potter, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 16 hours

Pat Murphy
Pat Murphy's second novel, The Falling Woman, won the Nebula for best novel published in 1987. That same year, her novelette "Rachel in Love" won a Nebula, the Isaac Asimov Reader's Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. In 1990, a short story collection, Points of Departure (Bantam), won the Philip K. Dick Award for best paperback original. In 1991, her novella "Bones" won the World Fantasy Award.

When not writing SF, she writes for the Exploratorium, San Francisco's museum of science, art, and human perception, founded by Dr. Frank Oppenheimer (brother to Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atom Bomb). Titles include By Nature's Design (Chronicle Books), a book of photos and text about recurring natural patterns, The Color of Nature (Chronicle Books, Fall 1996), and The Science Explorer (Holt, 1996), a book of science activities for families. She has also taught writing at Stanford University's Creative Writing Program, the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Clarion Workshop at Michigan State University.

Pat Murphy Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Wild Girls
SF Site Review: The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3
SF Site Review: The James Tiptree Award Anthology 2
SF Site Review: The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1
SF Site Review: The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1
SF Site Review: The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1
SF Site Review: Adventures In Time And Space With Max Merriwell

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ivy Reisner

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Nadya Nadya is a werewolf, living in the mid 1800s, born of a werewolf father from Poland and a werewolf mother, who was a harlot in New Orleans. When she strays one night during a full moon and kills a neighbor's sheep, the community goes out to hunt the wolves that they see as a danger, and Nadya must escape towards the west.

She meets up with Elizabeth, a sweet but spineless lady, who has been abandoned by her wagon train. Elizabeth begs Nadya, whom she takes for a man, to ride with her awhile and help her. The two travel together, and most of the book is them travelling across country with a wagon, some oxen, and a little girl they find -- the only survivor of that wagon train, whom they find when they catch up to it. The further west they go, the further Nadya goes from the culture and norms of the east and her childhood, so that, even though she wore dresses all the time in Missouri, she can't tolerate them in California.

For Nadya, it's a book of growth and transformation. In transformation, she becomes the outsider, the other, both physically as she turns into a wolf and emotionally as she leaves her inner self behind. Then she, still werewolf, still other in nature, becomes an insider to a new group of humans and a new pack of wolves.

Nadya's father flees Poland after a crisis involving his family. Nadya's mother flees New Orleans. Neither flees successfully, because the thing they can't run away from is themselves and the truth of what they are. Nadya, too, tries to flee. Her travels take her from Missouri to California and then on to Oregon where, no longer running from herself, she stops running from her enemies.

They don't have to be her enemies. She said more than once that people fear what they don't understand, but this leads to two complications. First, she never applies it to herself. She runs because she's afraid of people she thinks she doesn't understand. Second, she doesn't see how this can help her solve the underlying problem.

Very few of the characters in the book are evil. Rufus certainly isn't. He's a man of a certain era, and he carries the mindset of that era, but he's not evil. When he goes hunting, it's to protect his people and his village, not out of malice. He doesn't know her family's secret. If she told him, he likely would not have tried to harm them. She's more afraid of the unknown problems that would come with her telling than the known, deadly problems that come from his ignorance. Every time she speaks the truth, every time she helps people understand, she's fine. Every time she hides it, out of fear, she comes to harm. Her development towards that, the inward plot, is far more interesting than the outward plot.

For Elizabeth, it's a book of suffering. She doesn't change much, possibly because she does not need to change. She starts by wanting to be a blessing to her family in the east, a teacher perhaps, and a good Christian woman. She ends by wanting to be a blessing to her family in the west, a teacher perhaps, and a good Christian woman. Throughout the journey she loses everything she has, including her friend and her father, and nearly her life on multiple occasions. Where Nadya leaves her inner life behind, Elizabeth sheds her outer life and trappings. Her suffering seems a bit overmuch for virtually no payoff. None of what she suffers comes from her own faults, and she doesn't start with any horrid flaws.

The language is at times crude, which may be off-putting to some listeners and the sex scenes between Elizabeth and Nadya seem a little gratuitous. However, Kirsten Potter is an excellent narrator, giving unique voices to each character and pacing the scenes very well.  When Nadya's father speaks Polish, or Elizabeth speaks French, or Nadya speaks the Native American trade tongue, the phrases just roll smoothly off her tongue. All in all, an excellent book. 

Copyright © 2010 Ivy Reisner

Ivy Reisner is a writer, an obsessive knitter, and a podcaster. Find her at IvyReisner.com.


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