I’m seeing more books about characters who have suffered the loss of a limb in the past few years. Despite this, all the characters have learned to cope really well. It makes me really grateful for what I have and makes me have more empathy for those who aren’t as fortunate. I’m seeing more realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities who are strong main characters and not secondary ones, maybe due to the diverse books trend.
It seems that there are a range of different types of books with characters lacking limbs. There are fantasies set in the past, science fiction books set in the future and realistic fiction often related to sports or the arts. And, fairy tale retellings, including two published recently based on Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, one of their less well-known tales.
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is a lush fantasy that incorporates a number of fairy tales into her story of Rachelle who is forced to fight deadly creatures on behalf of the realm to atone for a reckless act. When the king forces her to guard his bastard son Armand, Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Armand isn’t a warrior like Rachelle because the forestborn that marked him cut off his hands (an homage to Grimm’s Girl Without Arms) but Armand is shrewd and uses his great intelligence to make up for it.
Stephanie Oakes’ The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2016 Morris Award Finalist and 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee) is unique in that it’s not a fantasy, nor is it SF, it is realistic fiction. The year isn’t specific, but it seems to me to take place in a relatively current time period but since the community is off the grid in a secluded area, it has a more historical feel. This story of one teen’s struggle to break away from the life she’s known in a cult since she was five is gritty and often hard to read but unforgettable. Minnow no longer believes in the Prophet after he announces that God told him to marry her. She dares to attempt to escape but is caught and punished for her disobedience – her hands are cut off. The Prophet even keeps Minnow’s skeletal remains of her hands on his mantel. Minnow tells her story of what happened to her in the cult before and after that horrific event to an FBI psychologist as she’s in juvenile detention on charges of seriously assaulting a mentally unstable young man.
Anyone familiar with Grimm’s story will notice that there are a number of elements that Oakes faithfully includes from Grimm’s original tale, although Oakes adds an even more shocking twist to her story. (For another version of Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, read Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (2012) and his commentary about why he dislikes this tale).