Roxanne Forbes reviews Mark Mayes “The Gift Maker


Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package. What is it? We don’t know, he never opens it. I’m still mad about this. Great job, Thomas. But his unrequited love-interest Liselotte has also been given a gift, and quickly usurps him as the more interesting protagonist. Team Liselotte. After all, she is action, he is reaction—Liselotte opens her gift, while Thomas refuses; when Liselotte embarks on her journey to see the mysterious theatre director Reynard, Thomas leaves only to follow her.

They travel to a town called Grenze (German for “border”) to attend a performance at the Sheol Theatre (She’ol, according to the Hebrew Bible, is the place where the dead go) directed by Reynard (named after the trickster fox figure in European fables). Hint hint hint. Reynard wants to play God, or perhaps he is the devil, then Thomas and Liselotte fall for his mind-control and get naked on stage and become the new ADAM AND EVE as Reynard provides a running commentary about his motives and Daddy issues. But, Liselotte said she only liked Thomas as a brother, so this part was gross to me on her behalf. How many times have you gotten totally nude and hugged your naked brother (who’s also in love with you) in front of a live audience and it was totally platonic and not-weird? Don’t worry though, she’s OK with this because their agency and personalities have evaporated due to Reynard’s irresistible allure.

I struggled with the POV of this novel—what begins as a 3rd-person-past-tense tale is intercut by chapters featuring a 1st-person-present-tense narrator. This narrator is Daumen, the eponymous gift maker, and what does he have to say? A lot, but also not a lot that we don’t know. These are basically recap chapters, where Daumen spells it all out for us in case we weren’t paying attention. It’s very “tell”-y. And a detriment to the pacing of the story. Every time Daumen showed up I was like, “God, not this guy again.” Which is kind of bad when he’s your titular character.

But there was a lot to enjoy in the novel too. An advance reader of Mark Mayes’ The Gift Maker described it as reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. However, if there’s any filmic comparison to be made, Jacob’s Ladder (1990) would be more accurate—both works are grotesque fantasies with religious themes, taking place in an altered world plagued by ugly, hallucinogenic imagery. Cakes are filled with severed fingers, dwarfed doppelgängers commit murder, maggots crawl out of babe’s mouths, deformed jazz players busk the streets, a mute youth is gored to death by a wild boar out of nowhere. These moments of uncanniness and horror are great, and when I was having the most fun. A filmic adaption of this novel would be a spectacular visual feast. Unfortunately on the page, the atmosphere of dread can’t be sustained amidst Reynard’s theater tomfoolery, and too many unanswered questions swirling around compromise the admittedly poetic ending.

Read Mark Mayes’ poetry here.

June 7, 2017

The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes review

Roxanne Forbes reviews Mark Mayes “The Gift Maker“
June 7, 2017

Short Fiction by Rod Nordland

Short fiction by Rod Nordland
June 1, 2017

The Indications by Lander Hawes

Short fiction by Lander Hawes
May 10, 2017

No Place To Call Home by JJ Bola

An Extract from JJ Bola’s debut novel No Place to Call Home which will be published by OWN IT! on June 22nd.
May 8, 2017

The Bricks by Kate Jefford

Short fiction by Kate Jefford
May 3, 2017

Inches Apart by Chloe Turner

Short  Fiction by Chloe Turner
April 24, 2017

Lost Boys by Rona Laycock

Short Fiction by Rona Laycock
April 10, 2017

Equity by Josie Turner

Short Fiction by Josie Turner
April 3, 2017

Unstuck by Dave Wakely

Short Fiction by Dave Wakely
March 27, 2017

The Excursion by Sarah Armstrong

Short Fiction by Sarah Frances Armstrong
March 13, 2017

Waterstones, Piccadilly Circus by Shaniqua Harris

Short Fiction by Shaniqua Harris
March 6, 2017

Weekend in the Cairngorms by Odette Brady

Short Fiction by Odette Brady
February 20, 2017

Saturday’s Soup by S.A. Edward

Short Fiction by S.A. Edward
February 13, 2017

The Meme

Short Fiction by Toby Litt
February 6, 2017

Afters by Stella Klein

Short Fiction by Stella Klein
January 23, 2017

After The Event Takes Place by Laurence Barratt-Manning

Short Fiction by Laurence Barratt-Manning
January 16, 2017

A Long Way Through by Matt Hutchinson

Short Fiction by Matt Hutchinson
January 13, 2017

Luca’s Trip to Havana by Leila Segal

Leila Segal shares a story from her debut collection; Breathe: Stories from Cuba (flipped eye, 2016). Leila also talks to Melanie Jones about her writing, Cuba, and small publishers in this interview. You can buy a copy of Breathe here. Leila will be reading at MIRLive on January 30th and copies of Breathe […]
January 11, 2017

Creative Writing by Maggie Womersley

Short fiction by Maggie Womersley. This story was originally published in The Mechanics’ Institute Review: Issue 10. The Mechanics’ Institute Review is an annual collection of fiction now open for submissions to all UK authors. While submissions are open, we will be posting some of favourite work from past collections. Creative Writing was selected by […]
January 4, 2017

Stag by Louise Lee

An extract from  In The Name Of Love by Louise Lee. This extract was originally published in The Mechanics’ Institute Review: Issue 12. The Mechanics’ Institute Review is an annual collection of fiction now open for submissions to all UK authors. While submissions are open, we will be posting some of favourite […]