Rites of Renewal is a short story collection that explores the question of what happens when a world, a person, or a family is broken in a way that may be past fixing. Throughout this collection, characters face wounds beyond their ability to heal, past sins beyond their ability to redeem. Their environment, their future, their families—everything is falling apart. The doppelganger farm has lost its crops, the family automaton is rusting, and the reverse volcano is threatening to come back together and take all of us with it. The stories in Rites of Renewal are dispatches from characters past their breaking points, facing realities spiraling outside of their control. These characters do not have solutions. They do not have answers. They do, however, have a will to try. The protagonists in Rites of Renewal find their solace in their ability to create something new. What they create will not be the same as what was lost, nor will it be a mended version of what had been broken. It will just be the best that they can grow in barren soil with broken parts. It will also, somehow, if only for a moment, be enough.
It used to be my husband would only disintegrate rarely and in quick flashes. I never even saw it happen until after three years of dating. We were tangled on his futon at the time. Brian’s body pressed down from above, the metal skeleton of the futon up from below. The frame rattled, and I felt trapped in the best way. Then, a smell like melting plastic. Blinding light. The weight that had pinned me down — gone. Breath surged into my lungs, my heart leapt in a pattern of panic, and just like that, the light condensed, and Brian was back on top of me. Even though it was all over in a matter of seconds, I could not get over the shock. “There’s this thing with my family,” Brian explained, after giving up on his efforts to coax me back into position. “Where sometimes we burst apart.” In the coming months I read all the literature. I came to an understanding of what I was about to marry. I knew that it would only get worse, that it was just a matter of time. As the dissolutions became more frequent, as the glow of his body spread farther, stayed suspended a beat longer, I understood that these were bad signs. I would watch Brian come back together slow, like fireflies clustering into a human body, and try to summon my solemnity. I told myself that this was the beginning of an end. I told myself that I was witnessing a tragedy. But, at heart, every time my husband fell apart I could not help but see it as dazzling.