The Oven has the weirdly unreal feel of a modern fable, in part due to its science fiction approach. Sophie Goldstein’s story tells of a couple who leave urban civilization so they can reproduce outside of society’s rules. They head out to a broken-down trailer camp where babies are possible, but they haven’t realized what living on one’s own really means and how much they’d have to sacrifice for their hope of a family.
The art is deceptively simple, but powerfully emotional, and the grey tones with orange as the only color perfectly capture the feeling of a hot, dirty refugee camp. Natural farming is hard work, and the stress of their new lifestyle makes it clear that they have different dreams. They’re forced into more traditional roles, as having a child is a much greater commitment from a woman, and they have different levels of commitment to the idea.
The story expands with what the reader brings to it. I read it as a cautionary tale about thinking that something external will fix you. “If I only had a baby, we’d be a real family” or “if I could live elsewhere, things would be better” are delusions. I prefer “remember, no matter where you go, there you are” as a reminder that we take our problems with us, and we have to address them to fix what’s really wrong. You don’t necessarily know how those you depend on will react in times of great change, and you can’t change another person who doesn’t want to change.
The Oven is deceptive, in that it seems straightforward and direct, but there are hidden depths. It’s subtle, mature work where you’ll notice different things as you come back to it. You can read a preview at the publisher’s website or find out more about the author in this lengthy interview.