Book Review: Thistlefoot – Erie Reader

INna modern age of cell phones, the Internet, and flying cars (well, not quite yet), many tales of myth and folklore from our ancestral homelands feel as though they have lost most of the magic they once held, or have been lost entirely to a generation of people.

These stories, though, are an important component of GennaRose Nethercott’s debut novel, Thistlefoot, which follows Baba Yaga and her present-day ancestors. For those unfamiliar, Baba Yaga is a common Slavic folklore character, often depicted as a supernatural older woman who lives in a moving house that stands on chicken legs. Nethercott’s Baba Yaga, however, takes on a more matriarchal role, originating as the great-great grandmother of the story’s two main characters.

Estranged since childhood, the Yaga siblings — Isaac, a street performer and con artist, Bellatine, a woodworker — find themselves forced together again when a mysterious inheritance from a long-dead ancestor shows up at a loading dock in New York City.

They quickly discover that the inheritance isn’t land or money but is instead — you guessed it — a sentient house with chicken legs, which Bellatine names Thistlefoot. The two then agree to a plan to take the house on the road to perform as they had in childhood alongside their parents, putting on the puppet show The Drowning Foola mainstay of the Yaga family puppetry theater.

But Thistlefoot has not come to America alone: ​​a sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has followed the house, bringing with him violent and tragic secrets from the past that were hidden in the Yaga bloodline for generations.

Nethercott’s writing performs the incredible feat of breathing life into this old tale and creating a space in which folklore and myth blur with reality. Her incredible prose leaps off the page, begging to be read, and gives new meaning to tales that have existed for centuries.

With characters that tug at heartstrings and pull you in, Nethercott’s family saga weaves into your consciousness so intricately that it is hard to separate yourself from the words on the page, creating the want and need for more of the Yaga siblings’ lives, long after the final page.

Anchor Books // 435 pages // Fantasy, Magical Realism

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