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Fantasy Friday – Zenna Henderson Books

Zenna Henderson’s Pilgrimage and The People: No Different Flesh

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc

 

I love this series – re-read it regularly!  Most of the stories [but not the thread connecting them] have appeared independently in various science fiction and fantasy magazines and some short story collections.  The two books have also been collected in the omnibus edition Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson.

 

Although she was not as well known [or as prolific] as Heinlein and Asimov and Norton, Zenna Henderson is truly one of the Golden Age masters.  Like most great authors she uses her stories to ask – and answer – important questions.  In the case of the People stories that question might be – what if alien people crash land on earth, and what if they are different – perhaps even better than us?

The People are a race from another planet who become marooned on earth, many injured and killed, most of them separated from each other and not knowing if they are the only survivors. The People have the very best of human qualities: love, gentleness, spirituality; and also special powers of healing, levitation and other frequently miraculous abilities.

 

Pilgrimage

Before talking about the story I want to give credit to her skills as a writer.  Her setting simply glows with the color and heat of the American Southwest.  Her people are fully visualized, their emotions vividly portrayed.  The plots of the different stories are intense and page turning.

There is a thread which binds the short stories together – the story of Lea who is suicidal but is dragged back from the brink [literally] by a chance-met member of the people.  The stories she listens to about their past, their Home, and the landing which scattered and shattered them slowly bring her back to feeling hope…

 

No Different Flesh

This book tells the story of a couple, Mark and Meris, who, one stormy night, find a young girl who has fallen in a capsule from the sky, and who has special abilities. Maris and Mark, still grieving the loss of their own baby, must come to terms with the emotional issues that caring for the young girl, Lala, creates in both of them. What follows is a plot that will involve the reader in the magic, compassion and sense of rightness that the People evoke.

In Pilgrimage, as in The People: No Different Flesh, the plot shifts between the present day story, and stories about the People from their past, which comprise the People’s race memory. Included as one of these memories told to Mark and Meris is a short story, “Deluge”, which has appeared in some short story collections. “Deluge” gives the reader a taste of the magical and deeply fulfilling way of life on the People’s home planet and tells how the People came to leave it. Other memories tell us what happened to various individuals of the People as they arrived on earth. These add texture and interest to the present-day story, and include events of terrible persecution of the People as well as stories of personal tragedy and joy.

 

One of the continuing themes in these stories are teachers and teaching and just how much difference they can make in others lives.  As a teacher myself, I reread these books to remind me why I was teaching and to refill the well of compassion which sometimes gets drained pretty dry in all of us.

If you’re looking for Lara Croft or Indiana Jones – these books are not for you.  They will never be made into summer blockbuster movies. These stories frequently require access to the kleenex box but still manage to provide an overall feeling of uplift and hope.  And that’s something we could all use a lot more of.

 

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One Response to “Fantasy Friday – Zenna Henderson Books”

  1. Mary K. (3rdshifter) says:

    I’m kind of experimenting with Sci Fi reading but it’s such a variable subject that it’s hard to know what to try. These sound like the style I would like. Thanks for the review.

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