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A Dance for Emilia

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Originally published Oct. 1, 2000

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Sam and Jacob have been best friends for over forty years. In high school they shared a dream of success in the arts--Sam as a dancer and Jacob as an actor. Sam had to give up his dream; Jacob found some success in theater. His muse led him to California, while Sam remained in New York. Despite the distance, they have only grown closer. They figure they'll be best friends in old age.

But Sam dies unexpectedly. His devastated friend travels back east for the funeral and meets Emilia, Sam's last and greatest love, who inherited Sam's Abyssinian cat, Millamant. United in grief, Jacob and Emilia begin exchanging mail, exchanging memories of Sam. The power of their grief draws Sam back to them--into Millamant's body.

It's a delicate subject. Fantasy, like SF, traditionally deals with subjects by literalizing metaphors; but if you believe this approach is inappropriate for loss, then A Dance for Emilia is probably not the book for you. However, Peter S. Beagle handles the subject as sensitively and skillfully as possible, writing with intelligence, compassion, and fine prose about grief, obsession, and the importance of letting go. --Cynthia Ward