One of the things about literary classics is they open themselves to reinterpretation. It’s often a lot of fun to trace these. Andi Marquette is obviously an educated writer. Her The Secret of Sleepy Hollow is one of those reinterpretations that has a unique take on the tale. Set in modern times and featuring a member of the Crane family—Abby—as a graduate student, this story brings the tale into a contemporary context. Abby meets another graduate student—Katie—in Sleepy Hollow and the two fall in love. It turns out that Katie is a member of the Van Tassel family, thus bringing the two main families of Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” together again. There’s even a headless horseman.
Like the biblical book of Ruth, this is a gentle tale of women’s love. There’s no overt violence, no heads get chopped, but two women love and care for one another. Many of the more modern repackaged versions of Sleepy Hollow tend to go for the violent, sometimes drug-fueled tales of bored youth in a small town facing an angry ghost. Here the interest is more literary, a gothic romance. The fact that it’s a lesbian love story makes me wonder why so many people have trouble with others’ love lives. People are prone to curiosity about sex—that’s a simple fact. What isn’t so simple is that mores based on culturally specific ideas from millennia ago don’t stand the test of time and yet cause misery in modern lives because they can’t accept what we now know—sex and love are anything but simple.
Marquette’s book is marked by that anxiety. When people discover a love that’s often misunderstood, they face ridicule or worse. The book of Ruth provides a good guide here—the acceptance of a normally forbidden love can bring good and happiness to people in what is often a difficult world. There’s trouble enough—there are headless horsemen out there—that we don’t need to be causing more by judging the loves of others. Even a cisgender heterosexual can understand that. Life is complicated and we all try to find our way through. Love is one of those things that can help to make it more bearable. I found The Secret of Sleepy Hollow compelling in that way. It may not be a literary classic—few books are—but it takes on a complex topic intelligently and with heart. It’s a new take on an old story that still fits the modern world.