Bite-sized fiction about the lives of women, from the far past to the present and beyond, who have been wronged.
The characters in this third collection of short fiction from Sparks (The Unfinished World and Other Stories, 2016, etc.) exemplify the famous quote from Muriel Rukeyser that made the social media rounds in the wake of the #MeToo movement: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.” These are stories of that split-open world. In “Everyone’s a Winner in Meadow Park”—an uncharacteristically lengthy story for Sparks—a young girl living in a trailer park is haunted by the ghost of another young girl, who helps her navigate the turmoil of her hardscrabble environment. The daughter of an artist obsessed with making dioramas of female saints tells the story of her strange childhood and her stepfather’s murder at the hands of her mother (“The Eyes of Saint Lucy”). Many of Sparks’ pieces borrow from myths and fairy tales; in “A Place for Hiding Precious Things,” a young princess is transported by her fairy godmother to contemporary New York City to save her from a ghoulish fate. In “When the Husband Grew Wings,” a wife who adds a magic powder to her husband’s cereal that results in his growing wings is unhappy with the results. Although there is anger and rage in these stories, Sparks suffuses them with zingy humor at every opportunity. At their best, they balance heartbreak and wit. The pieces that don’t land are the ones where that wit grows cartoonish, such as the apocalyptic “We Destroy the Moon,” in which a cult leader’s wife persistently hashtags her own narration.
A collection with a goth heart beating beneath a cheerleader’s peppy exterior.