-Reviewed by Andie Berryman–
No Christmas is the twelfth single in the Pankhearst Femme Noir line, authored by head honcho Evangeline Jennings herself. ‘A heartwarming tale of faith and conservative family values’ says the blurb, but given this is Evangeline Jennings the only heartwarming thing is realising your heart is still beating by the end of reading the story.
The story focuses on teenager Abigail, her parents and the Christmas miracle, baby Shelby, and the mission to find warmth in the polar vortex of the USA. The family is poor and just struggling to survive:
The floorboards are ice beneath my feet, even through my dad’s thick winter socks. This threadbare t-shirt will never be warm enough.
The polar vortex is perhaps the best (or fully intended) metaphor as the cold cyclone of cold air persistently hovers over Abigail’s life as we catch up with her story in the present. Next comes a horrific description of so called ‘abortion counselling’ performed by state sanctioned practitioners in the Bible belt. Abigail asks, ‘But what are the psychological effects of NOT having an abortion?’ She knows that she is fighting a losing battle but refuses to give in. Jennings is gifted in imagining where the limitations and consequences of state legislation will affect women’s rights in the very near future.
Then comes the piece de resistance. When I first read Jennings’ work in Cars and Girls I stated:
It becomes clear that the narrative throughout is that of ‘don’t be a victim, do something about it!’ But how to achieve that in a so-called post-modern world still ruled by patriarchal institutions?
The conclusion of the story is about how the last resort of the oppressed is violence, and how the tools of modern social media can amplify that violence. Jennings has the talent to write a character committing an awful act, and you can’t bring yourself to blame them one little bit.