PC009: Wisteria

By Ada Milenkovic Brown
Read by Máia Whitaker (aka the Knitwitch)
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Dirt cake brought Dahlia back to thinking about Garner. Dirt was his element. When they had married and moved into his Great Aunt Euphemia’s shotgun house in Grimesland, there’d been nothing around it but dead grass and dirt. Garner had dug and planted and weeded. And little by little, year after year, it all turned green.

Till his heart attacked him.

Now, all that was left of Garner was leaves — sycamores, hydrangeas, weeping willows, and wisteria. It was all Garner. It had his stamp. She’d just never thought to look for his face in it.

Rated PG. Contains memories, wistful leaves, and sensuality.

Please visit the thread on Wisteria in the forums. 

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28 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    treed said,

    May 27, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

    lovely story, always wonderful to hear maia, perfect match up (story and voice)

  2. 2

    David said,

    May 28, 2008 @ 7:56 am

    I thought it was an enjoyable story. Maia’s voice put very vivid images of the characters in my head.

  3. 3

    Talula said,

    May 28, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

    I liked this story a little less than some of the others, but it was still very good. I enjoyed most the descriptions used, and the imagery. I agree with Treed that the voice of Máia really fit the character and the story.

  4. 4

    Storman_Norman said,

    May 28, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

    Sorry, this was the first full length PC story that I didn’t enjoy. Found it slow, boring, and unremarkable. Of course it disn’t help that I couldn’t relate to the character in any way. And the incorrect English (part of the character) was annoying to me. In a year I’ll still remember the “Ant King”, but would have all but forgtten this tale.

  5. 5

    Mike W. said,

    May 28, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

    58 years. My parents were married for 58 years. My father died just over a month ago. He was in a hospital for 3 weeks connected to bags of medicine by tubes. Mom stayed with him day and night. She was with him when he died.

    Dad was a gardener. He loved to work with the soil. The products of his labor of love gave him joy. Now mom works his garden for him. She does it to keep his memory alive. She’s convinced that he’s there with her. She misses him.

    Sound familiar? When I listened to Wisteria this morning with my 13 year old son, I shed tears for my mother and father. Thank you for sharing this story. It was a blessing.

  6. 6

    yicheng said,

    May 28, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

    The reading was excellent, but ultimately I found this story boring and over-sentimental. I kept on waiting for something to happen, but it was just flat and forgettable. The main character just sounds too one-dimension cardboard-cutout, “Touched By an Angel”, stereotypical southern black woman for me.

  7. 7

    csrster said,

    May 29, 2008 @ 3:44 am

    Máia’s voice is so beautiful I almost forgot to listen to the words. This would have been no bad thing as I found the story entirely uninvolving. That probably says more about me than it does about the story.

  8. 8

    The Blow Leprechaun said,

    May 29, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

    Terrible. I wanted to turn this story off after about ten minutes, but felt if I was going to criticize it, I should at least finish listening.

    The biggest thing is, I wouldn’t consider this fantasy at all. Garner had no real presence, and could more easily be the imaginings of a grief-stricken woman as a manifestation of something else.

    The idea of losing a loved one terrifies me, as I’m sure it does everyone, and it’s a ripe world for exploration. This story instead chooses to sit inside and look out the window instead of delving into it. We get told repeatedly how she aches for her lost husband, but we never really feel it.

    This is easily the weakest story to appear on podcastle to date, in my opinion. It belongs more in Reader’s Digest than a site like this.

  9. 9

    scatterbrain said,

    May 29, 2008 @ 8:04 pm

    Boring and plotless; bearly even magic realism or fantasy.

  10. 10

    ieDaddy said,

    June 2, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

    I’m not sure if this story belonged in podcastle or over in pseudopod. I thought for a while that I was listening to a horror story – only it never went anywhere. I really wanted this story to work – the reading by Máia Whitaker really made the story worth listening to.

    That being said, I felt that the story plot line fell a little flat. It had a good base but failed to get off the launching pad.

    As this was a podcastle story, I kept expecting garden fairies to come out and carry her away, the husband to have been some sort of lost extra-dimensional prince living a quiet life, or a doorway to the other realms to open through the green man’s face in the wisteria, or that she stumble upon some other fantastic secret. What we got was a storyline better suited for the Lifetime movie of the week.

    The Gardner’s wife can be a pretty powerful character, traditionally used as a catalyst for sudden revelations through some innocent action (think of the turkish fairy tale “the magic hair pins” where it is the gardener’s wife who find the rose-bird-maiden). Instead the plot is dull, never seems to go anywhere and is only unpredictable because I was expecting something more to happen.

  11. 11

    Gary H said,

    June 2, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

    I’m wondering why this is a fantasy story. The reading was fabulous, but the story was forgettable. Today I remembered that I wanted to comment on the last PC episode, but could not remember the story until I saw the title. That pretty much sums it up for me.

  12. 12

    Mrs. Fujita said,

    June 5, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    I am glad that you chose to include this story. It is definitely a fantasy story. I can only assume that those who couldn’t relate to this story have never lost anyone. Never had to feel grief, loss, guilt, regret….

    This story is eerily similiar to my own familys’ story. We each experience seeing our father is strange places. An old man at the store reaching for a can of corned beef hash, was that him? A voice in the crowd, is that his laugh? A cough in other room, I swear that was him. We each have fantasies that we hear him, see him, see traces of his presence. We all want one moment to say we are sorry that we weren’t there. My mother left his side for one hour to get fresh clothes. She has never forgiven herself. We tell ourselves that he was a tough old cowboy and chose to go when we weren’t there so that we didn’t have to see the struggle to save his life, so we didn’t see him in such a weak state, but the reality is that the timing just sucked, his body failed, his lungs failed and he died.

    The fantasy is nicer, I will hold on to the fantasy.

  13. 13

    Dave said,

    June 5, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

    Not a bad story. I enjoyed it, even though the fantasy elements were subtle, even arguably nonexistent, the story of an old woman who has to go a little crazy before she heals stood up on its own.

    I will say now, though, that I hope Podcastle doesn’t turn into the repository for all the sappy stories that would have otherwise gone on EP or PP… or worse, not made the cut.

    Fantasy is not a wussy genre, gosh darnit!

  14. 14

    Jennifer said,

    June 6, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    This was my favorite story yet – maybe because I know the grief that Dahlia lives with, maybe because I’ve seen the WoodSpirit in many forms. Very very good.

  15. 15

    cede said,

    June 7, 2008 @ 3:17 am

    i’m not finding the reading or the story interesting enough to continue listening, even worse for me was the tagline

  16. 16

    Anyanwu said,

    June 7, 2008 @ 8:04 pm

    I loved this story! Several reasons: It is based in North Carolina, my home state. The reading was excellent! I have read a little about the African version of the Green Man. Most of all, the narrator reminded me of my Grandmother. She loved her flower beds and hated to leave then when she moved in with my parents. And last, I love, love, love Wisteria. My Wisteria in my back yard is about out of control. My favorite time of year is when the Wisteria are in bloom.

    The problem is this story seemed so real to me. It did not seem like fantasy at all. Many widows dream and have visions of their husbands. This did not seem to be that much of a fantasy to me. It felt a lot like visiting my Grandmother.

  17. 17

    VBG said,

    June 8, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

    Yuck. This is the first Podcastle story I’ve actively disliked. The protagonist is a Wise Old Person Who Understands What’s Really Important In Life stereotype, and the story…

    …well, there was no story. In its place was maudlin sentimentality, meandering toward no obvious point. It was a big disappointment to me.

    Also, P.G. Wodehouse’s name is pronounced “wood” house.

  18. 18

    root said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 1:11 am

    I had already read this at IGMS, and almost turned it off, but I’m glad I didn’t.

    Wisteria alone = OK if you don’t have any puzzles to do.
    Wisteria read by Máia Whitaker = engaging fantasy about a very “real” character.

  19. 19

    Caged Lion said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

    I loved the reading and the story.

    This is a more subtle fantasy story, removed from the more European motifs and ostentatious elements that inhabit many other stories in this genre. This story would fit in well in the Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which also frequently relies on lowkey plot drivers and more inconspicuous magic, and which I also enjoy.

    Some of the best sci-fi isn’t all ray-guns and space monsters. Likewise, good fantasy can be devoid of the obvious elements.

  20. 20

    Spork said,

    June 10, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

    What a sweet, wonderful, and charming story. I really liked this one very much.

    The reading! Man, the reading was fantastic! Good voice, good expression, excellent pacing and just wonderful sound quality. Nicely done.

  21. 21

    Audita Sum said,

    June 12, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

    I thought the narrator’s southern drawl added a lot to it, but yeah. Just a nice story. Everything magical realism should be.

  22. 22

    Self Improvement Advice said,

    June 18, 2008 @ 5:13 am

    Nice story. It’s very exceptional. Man I guess I have to bookmark this site for more great stories to come. I really enjoyed it.

    -Jan

  23. 23

    Alan said,

    June 20, 2008 @ 2:28 am

    The fantasy here is very subdued, really more figurative than present, but at its heart it does exactly what magical realism is meant to do: it makes the metaphor literal. This is a story about setting down roots, and what it means to pull them up again. I found it warmly characterized and rich in local color. Maia’s reading felt very sincere.

  24. 24

    SarahPill said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

    I didn’t mind this story, but it definitely didn’t catch me like many of the others on this podcast. I wouldn’t really classify it as fantasy, either. It was touching and sentimental, but that’s about it. I agree with “The Blow Leprachaun” that it belongs to a more Reader’s Digest audience.

  25. 25

    Hyperion said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 4:47 am

    I enjoyed the story, and found the narration to be pitch-perfect. I read a few other comments, and even discounting the obvious Haters, there seemed to be a thrust toward the notion that “Wisteria” is not fantasy.

    I would agree “Wisteria” is not typical fantasy, in the elf/dragon/sword/wizard sense. I suppose the technical category would be Magic Realism, but I have another suggestion:

    Stories like “Wisteria” (and perhaps “Magic in a Certain Slant of Light,” and “Magnificent Pigs”) could be called “Gentle Fantasy.” I suppose “Soft Fantasy” might be another term (as opposed to “Hard”), but that veers too close to porn.

    Gentle Fantasy is to my mind a legitimate sub-genre, and it might even be worth labeling such stories appropriately, so that people who only show up to hear something slayed can avoid the horrific indignation of merely a well-told tale.

  26. 26

    KnitWitch said,

    October 16, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

    I just wanted to respond with a thanks for the kind words about my narration of “Wisteria”. I am listening today to this story myself for the first time since recording it many months ago and loved the story all over again. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in the South. Or perhaps that I’ve lost all my grandparents over the last two years and right now am dealing with my own father’s recent stroke, but this story manages to touch something in me and brings tears to my eyes even now.

    Those who know me or my podcast (yes, it’s in hiatus again) know that I am a pretty hardcore scifi & fantasy junkie. However, I did not mind the non-traditional branch of fantasy presented in Ada Milenkovic Brown’s story and rather quite enjoyed playing at the edge of the genre with a different form. Thank you to PodCastle for asking me to perform the reading and once again to the listeners for your kind review of my work!

  27. 27

    Carrie said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 1:56 am

    Just heard this over my iTunes.

    I really enjoyed the reading, even though I cried. Whatever weaknesses the story itself had, the reading smoothed over for me.

    I thought “Wisteria” dug into the crevices of grief, an experience which can be very, very surreal.

  28. 28

    KnitWitch said,

    November 19, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

    Just noticed that the web link listed for me is not correct. My website is http://www.knitwitchzone.com

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