Review: The Hair Wreath and Other Stories, by Halli Villegas

>>Published: September 2010

>>Finally got around to it: October 2010

Suffocation is one of the predominant themes in this collection of ghost stories, a first for Tightrope Books publisher Villegas—be it the constriction one feels in a home meant for another or a literal strand of hair that was wound its way through an unfaithful man’s teeth, fastening itself to his heart.

The ghosts in these nineteen tales are not altogether malevolent, but neither are they disinterested observers. In each case, whether they are the focus or merely the vehicle by which another’s tale is told, these ghosts are illustrative—guides of a sort as they impart some knowledge hitherto unknown to the living in each story. Nowhere is this more evident than in the longest story in the collection, “Twenty-First Century Design,” in which the home of a once-upon-a-time musician who may or may not have shot himself becomes the prison through which an entire family must traverse their own systems of values, the dissemination of which is mired in the lust for material design and the appearance of wealth, and the dissatisfaction that comes with it when one realizes that a house is never constructed as a home, rather becomes one through those that live in it.

Villegas exhibits terrific attention to the detailed actions of her characters, never once employing forceful or abrasive tactics to drive her intentions. Instead, the collected stories in The Hair Wreath form a cohesive treatise on memory—what it means to listen to it, to ignore it, to let it take control and stand in the way of one’s life—and the sometimes distressing, sometimes disturbing, embodiments thereof.

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