Basic human truths lie at the heart of every story in this collection, which ranges from the odd to the fantastic.
The title story begins with the lines, “I cut my boyfriend in half; it was what we both wanted. I said we could double our time together.” From there, things only get weirder. The narrator is left with identical versions of her boyfriend, essentially two halves of the same man, and for a while, it works. But then, they think, why stop? There is always more to do, and the more bodies around, the easier their lives will be; the narrator cuts her boyfriend in half again, and then again. The more halves she makes, the more unsettling and unexpected the results. Amid the bizarre reality of the story, however, lie surprisingly familiar emotional complications. This is a thread that runs through the collection—the weird and sometimes fantastic eventually reveal issues that very much belong to the real world. In “There’s a Woman Works Down the Chip Shop,” the narrator recounts the summer her mother became Elvis—“she was Elvis, hips a gogo, rocking onto the balls of her feet with only the counter between her and lasses screaming and promising to love her forever.” The totality of the transformation is ambiguous, but it acts as a lens through which a secret side to the mother’s life is revealed. Readman’s writing style is plain in ways that can sometimes feel tired, and occasionally the stories can be convoluted. As they progress, though, both the author and the stories find solid footing.
A strong collection in which elements of the strange are sustained by a surprising subtlety and understanding of human nature.