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HomeEducation & JobsBad Parents, Beware. These Harpy Sisters Are Coming for You.

Bad Parents, Beware. These Harpy Sisters Are Coming for You.


The titular sisters in “Roxy and Coco,” Svoboda’s new novel, share a far stronger bond. They are modern-day harpies, of mythological renown: half-woman, half-bird, fearsome creatures, vicious and unmerciful, monsters or incredible beauties, depending on whom you ask. “Harpies have a bad rap about their looks, but it’s strictly a projection of fear from male content providers,” Svoboda writes.

Roxy and Coco — blonde and brunette — are more like guardian angels in disguise. They have wings hidden under coats, fully feathered torsos, and they nosh on the occasional suet energy bar. But they’re also social workers, and their very long life’s work is the consideration of children who have been abandoned, neglected or worse. (The emphasis here is on guardian, not angel.) Roxy has some faith in the legal system, whereas Coco, who narrates most of the book, indulges in unchecked vigilante tendencies.

When a child’s caretakers prove violent or exceptionally unfit, Coco has a habit of flexing her wings and snatching them up for a ride, then dropping them to their deaths from a great height. Coco’s sense of justice causes her little internal moral friction, but ever since her recent, zealous killing spree in Europe, the law is on her tail, and she’s become, well, a bird on the lam.

Svoboda’s harpies have overwhelming empathy for children. Romantic love proves more peculiar. Their biological clocks are set to 100-year cycles, but when Roxy catches feelings for her co-worker Tim, it’s 10 years too early. Premature attraction is unusual for a harpy, so Coco decides to keep a close eye on her sister, believing something has run afoul. It’s not just protective sibling energy driving her paranoia: Roxy and Coco’s mother died giving birth to a too-large egg conceived with a human. Falling in love too fast or with the wrong mate can be fatal. Coco is worried about her sister, but also about the dwindling number of harpies across the world. Another harpy lost brings them one wing closer to extinction.



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