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In Ava Leavell Haymon's third collection, an unremarkable, harried, contemporary woman named Gretel finds herself at midlife overtaken by the Grimms' household tale "Hansel and Gretel." The violence and terror in that story supplant the memory of her own childhood, and the fairy tale retells itself in a sharp succession of surprising poems. The witch, the sugar house, Gretel's brother, her passive father, his cruel second wife, the sinister forest -- all these and more rise like jazz motifs to play themselves in the present. Addressing themes such as hunger, child abuse, betrayal, cannibalism, and murder in a tone by turns disturbing and humorous, Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread is most certainly not a book for children.
Ava Leavell Haymon is the author of the poetry collections Kitchen Heat and The Strict Economy of Fire. She teaches poetry writing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and directs a writers' retreat center in the mountains of New Mexico.