Another set of wonderful books now, starting with a collection which I very much enjoyed. All of the tomes collected in this post are filled with intriguing short stories, all of which are high on my TBR list.
1. The Last Animal by Abby Geni
‘The Last Animal by Abby Geni is that rare literary find — a remarkable series of stories unified around one theme: people who use the interface between the human and the natural world to contend with their modern challenges in love, loss, and family life. These are vibrant, weighty stories that herald the arrival of a young writer of surprising feeling and depth.
“Terror Birds” tracks the dissolution of a marriage set against an ostrich farm in the sweltering Arizona desert; “Dharma at the Gate” features the tempest of young love as a teenaged girl must choose between man’s best friend, her damaged boyfriend, and a beckoning future; “Captivity” follows an octopus handler at an aquarium still haunted by the disappearance of her brother years ago; “The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr” details a Greek chorus of Jewish girls at a summer camp whose favorite counselor goes missing under suspicious circumstances; “In the Spirit Room” centers on a scientist suffering the heartbreaking loss of a parent from Alzheimer’s while living in the natural history museum where they both worked; in “Fire Blight” a father grieving over his wife’s recent miscarriage finds an outlet for comfort in their backyard garden and makes a surprising discovery on how to cherish living things; and in the title story, a retired woman traces the steps of the husband who left her thirty years ago, burning the letters he had sent along the way, while the luminous and exotic wildlife of the Pacific Ocean opens up to receive her.
Unflinching, exciting, ambitious and yet heartfelt, The Last Animal will guide readers through a menagerie of settings and landscapes as it underscores the connection among all living things.’
From nature to a collection which explores similar themes, and which I’m coveting…
2. By Light We Knew Our Names by Anne Valente
‘From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across thirteen stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief.’
We move to a book which has been incredibly highly praised…
3. Antarctica by Claire Keegan
‘Published to great critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, the iridescent stories in Claire Keegan’s debut collection, Antarctica, have been acclaimed by The Observer to be “among the finest contemporary stories written recently in English.” In “Antarctica,” a married woman travels out of town to see what it’s like to sleep with a man other than her husband. “Love in the Tall Grass” takes Cordelia down a coastal road on the last day of the twentieth century to keep a date with her lover that has been nine years in the waiting. “Stay Close to the Water’s Edge” tells of a young Harvard student who is pitilessly humiliated by his homophobic stepfather on his birthday. Keegan’s writing has a clear vision of unaffected truths and boldly explores a world where dreams, memory, and chance have crippling consequences for those involved. The stories are often dark and enveloped in a palpable atmosphere, and the reader feels that something “big” is going on in each of these carefully sculpted tales.’
The next tales have a very focused Irish setting…
4. There Are Little Kingdoms: Stories by Kevin Barry
‘Kevin Barry received widespread critical acclaim and the Rooney prize for Irish Literature following the publication of this first book of stories in 2007. His stories have since appeared in The New Yorker and in the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story. His debut novel, City Of Bohane, was published by Jonathan Cape in April 2011. Could easily have been titled These Are Little Masterpieces. Barry gathers all the bewildered exasperation that Irish playwrights from Tom Murphy to Marina Carr and Enda Walsh have identified, and brings it, most brilliantly, to his dark, blackly hilarious and horrifically realistic narratives.’
We move from Ireland to Switzerland with this intriguing collection of translated tales…
5. We’re Flying by Peter Stamm
‘Following the publication of the widely acclaimed novel Seven Years comes a trove of stories from the Swiss master Peter Stamm. They all possess the traits that have built Stamm’s reputation: the directness of the prose, the deceptive surface simplicity of the narratives, and deep psychological insight into the existential dilemmas of contemporary life. Stamm does not waste a word, nor does he spare the reader’s feelings. These stories are a superb introduction to his work and a gift for all those who have come to regard his fiction as a precise rendering of the contemporary human psyche.’
Next stop on the Book Trail: humans in all of their weird and wondrous forms…
6. Further Interpretations of Real Life Events: Stories by Kevin Moffett
‘A dazzling new story collection from brilliant, young, award-winning writer Kevin Moffett, Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events illuminates the intimate experiences of characters caught between aspiration and achievement, uncertainty and illumination, inertia and discovery, the past and the future. Channeling unexpected, eclectic voices in a collection perfectly suited to readers of Daniyal Mueenuddin, Alice Sebold, and Dave Eggers, Moffett delivers a nuanced, powerful, humorous, and moving meditation on the trials of transitions and liminal living in today’s modern world.’
Darkness saturates the next collection…
7. Ladies and Gentlemen by Adam Ross
‘After his widely celebrated debut, Mr. Peanut, Adam Ross now presents a darkly compelling collection of stories about brothers, loners, lovers, and lives full of good intentions, misunderstandings, and obscured motives.
A hotshot lawyer, burdened by years of guilt and resentment, comes to the rescue of his irresponsible, irresistible younger brother. An unsettling story resonates between the dysfunctional couple telling it and their listening friends as well. A lonely professor, frequently regaled with unbelievably entertaining tales by the office handyman, suddenly fears he’s being asked to abet a murderous fugitive. An awkward but nervy adolescent uses his brief career as a child actor to further his designs on a WASPy friend’s seemingly untouchable sister. A man down on his luck closes in on a mysterious, much-needed job offer while doing a good turn for his fragile neighbor, with results at once surreal and hilarious. And when two college kids goad each other on in an escalating series of breathtaking dares, the outcome is as tragic as it is ambiguous.’
Our final book is all about women, and the many dramas they face…
8. This Is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks
‘Eleven women confront dramas both everyday and outlandish in Caitlin Horrocks’ This Is Not Your City. In stories as darkly comic as they are unflinching, people isolated by geography, emotion, or circumstance cut imperfect paths to peace—they have no other choice. A Russian mail-order bride in Finland is rendered silent by her dislocation and loss of language, the mother of a severely disabled boy writes him postcards he’ll never read on a cruise ship held hostage by pirates, and an Iowa actuary wanders among the reincarnations of those she’s known in her 127 lives. Horrocks’ women find no simple escapes, and their acts of faith and acts of imagination in making do are as shrewd as they are surprising.’
That’s it for today’s Book Trail; another one will hit your screens soon.