Avery, Sarah -- Tales from Rugosa Coven

Urban fantasy on the New Jersey shoreline. Rugosa Coven is a batch of six eclectic low-rite pagans who get together for services (out of a tupperware ritual-in-a-box box), and to deal with each others' problems when problems arise. Because that's what you do for your friends. The problems get eclectic, too.

This is not urban fantasy as the genre has come to be systematized. The Rugosa folks are neither secret warriors in a world-wide fight against evil, nor wide-eyed discoverers of a secret history. It's just that... well, say your parents were old-school traditional Theosophists. (Bob and Sophie fled the family faith for kitchen-witchery.) Would you be surprised if they started bugging you about their funeral arrangements -- after their deaths? Okay, you'd be surprised, but not shocked. Plenty of Theosophists got notes from their Ascended Masters, or so the books say.

Or, say you're a cranky pagan rationalist-materialist, and a merman washes up on your beach. That's a problem -- a philosophical problem, not an epic-fantasy problem. Also an unexpected-house-guest problem.

The point is these characters deal with their situations because they're people, not because they're pagans. They are pretty solid people, and the stories about them are pretty solid. Sometimes a casserole is the best approach to a problem.

(The question is not addressed of how, say, a Methodist church congregation would deal with the same situations. Casseroles would presumably still be involved.)

The stories were written out of chronological order, which puts a bit of strain on. The first-written is the last-told, and it sketches out some backstory -- how Ria left the coven, how Jane dumped her husband, all in the past (but with consequences). But the previous story in the book, written later, narrates these events as they occur. Each story works, but taken together there's a bit of clash -- of focus, not facts. It doesn't sink the book; I just think it's interesting. One of the perils of writing out of chronological order, and maybe an argument for reading the stories in publishing order. You don't have to. You can skip this entire paragraph, really.

Read if you're hankering for some sense of community among very different people.

(Interest: I've known the author since junior high school, and I beta-read one of the stories, long ago.)

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