The Archive of Alternate Endings

Written by Lindsey Drager
Review by Bryan Dumas

Drager (The Lost Daughter Collective) returns with another look at how stories are told and how they shape people’s lives in this taut, deeply philosophical retelling of the “Hansel and Gretel” tale.

In 1835, the Grimm brothers sit down to write their collection of oral folklore and are shocked to hear a unique rendition of “Hansel and Gretel” where the children are banished from their home not because the parents couldn’t care for them, but because the parents didn’t care for one of them—the son, because he loved boys. The brothers wrestle with whether or not this story should be told. From here, Drager uses the idea of Hansel and Gretel as a symbol of familial love to explore various other lives that coincide with the return of Haley’s Comet. From the “original” brother and sister in 1378, to a queer book illustrator sentenced to a Woman’s Asylum in 1910 and whose illustrations of “Hansel and Gretel” become a book given to a man dying of AIDS in 1986, and eventually to a world without humans where only two space probes tell the story to each other in 2211.

Though a spartan 170 pages, this is a profoundly resonating book that will feel both dense and light. At times, Drager loses herself in the art of storytelling rather than the story itself, but not enough that readers will come away unsatisfied with the overall journey and applaud the ambitious nature of this inventive and emotional work.