The Redemption of Galen Pike by Caryn Davies (Biblioasis)
This is a wonderful collection of short stories. Don’t be put off by the somewhat grotesque cover--Davies is actually a fairly traditional storyteller. Some of the stories reminded me of Alice Munro, in the way that she can lull you into thinking you understand a situation, only to pull the rug out from under you right at the last moment. Davies doesn’t do that every time, that would take the fun out of it, but the few times she does really work. I was pleasantly surprised or creeped out or delighted or horrified. It’s quite a nice payoff in a short story. Her writing is clean and solid, with just the right amount of lovely turns-of-phrases-- “herons and egrets picking their way delicately through the muddy sand.” She’s one of those “professional” writers--you know you’re in good hands when you enter one of her stories. Each one is a perfectly created little jewel box--solid, intricate, closing with the most satisfying snap.
Look at that cover! Feel the pages! Do you feel something sparkly and maybe a little weird holding this book? That’s the MAGIC, my friends. Don’t let it go! This unusual collection of stories veer from delightfully maudlin campfire ghost stories (a la Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, your favorite freak-out read from elementary school) to an absolutely heart-wrenching end-of-the-world dystopian told through a woman's increasingly significant relationships to the story of a girl, the goth dress shop she works at in the mall, and the dresses she sells that vibrate with life. !!!!! The writing is snappy and electric and utterly underline-able. Each story is its own weird little world but they all glow with sex, love, fear, and the terror of being alive.
Fen: Stories by Daisy Johnson (Graywolf)
This collection of stories scrambled my brain a little bit, in the best possible sense-- they made me re-read, wonder, turn the book upside down, shake it a bit, see what other fantastical imaginings would fall out. Girls turning into eels, men into foxes, a house obsessed with a woman, a blood sucking girl gang preying on their internet dates. And a few stories that broke my heart too-- Johnson has a way of manifesting loneliness and loss into physical pain and malady that shocks the senses. I didn't read and worry that the same fate would befall me, but I did understand how the characters felt, how their tragedy grew so large it took physical form. Startling, unusual, and sneakily profound, Fen is an unforgettable collection.