"The Language of Moths"from Before and Afterlives
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Lethe Press (March 18, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1590213696 ISBN-13: 978-1590213698Like "Birthday" from Christopher Barzak's other collection, Birds and Birthdays, "The Language of Moths" grows in power in the rereading--in part because many details stand out in retrospect.
Over summer vacation, Eliot is trapped in the wilderness, cooped up with family in a tiny cabin, certain he'll be saddled with the responsibility of taking care of his autistic sister all the time while his dad chases after a possibly fictitious moth and his mom works on a feminist revision of Thoreau's Walden. But he isn't. His mother often frees him of the responsibility to go play and make friends, which he does and encounters his first love... and first rejection.
His sister, meanwhile, talks to insects, off in her own little world and has to be chased down often. However, her insights into the family are considerable, calling Eliot a "little old man" due to his grouchiness for having to watch over her. Eliot's opinion of her changes as he sees the insects respond to her and do her communication for her.
Barzak treats communication where the moths' language and insight is a little boring mirroring Eliot's and his parents'. The sister, on the other hand, probably closer resembles the fireflies who like to have fun and who are helpful as Eliot's sister is to her dad and Eliot. I'm adding this to my list of Barzak's greatest hits.