Ingathering by Zenna Henderson
Ingathering: The Complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I read these stories now, they remind me of Laura Ingalls Wilder; they’re all written about earnest, kind, unhappy, lost people, and the refrains in all of them are the same: finding people with whom one belongs, finding a spiritual joy that awakens real power. This makes the stories sound overtly religious, and they are, but in a quiet way, and the strength of them lies in the echoes of loneliness in the characters. Henderson writes about people who have lost their home, which was a marvelous and magical place; and they have lost each other, mostly. She is one of the few writers in science fiction or fantasy who created aliens among us in such a bright, benevolent way. Not here to conquer or to exploit, only here by accident (though perhaps a divine accident). When I read them as a child I was thunderstruck by the possibility that there were really the People somewhere; unlike some of her fans, who apparently convinced themselves of the literality of the stories, I knew it was fiction I was reading, but it was nevertheless heartening to imagine I could fly or plait twitters. These are perfect young adult stories, also for people who don’t like more than a necessary dose of unpleasantness. Even on reading them again now (I am in the midst of them) I am struck by the artful writing and the perseverance of the writer, who did as she pleased and became something of a phenomenon. It was a real wonder in the 60s to find them as they appeared and became anthologized, reading and learning more about the People a little at a time. Read all at once they have a slightly saccharine quality. But the nostalgia they evoke is enough for me. Much like Anne of Green Gables and books of that ilk, where there is never really any question that things will work out well in the end. Everybody needs stories like that from time to time. Especially in 2020.