The complex emotional lives of women and girls are explored in this riveting collection.
Betrayal as the weapon of choice for the female of the species is a recurring theme in these 11 free-standing stories. In “Brides,” a teen appearing in a high-school production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers gets used by both the ruthless leading lady and the drama teacher besotted with her. “Allegiance” features a young British-born girl who, after moving to an American suburb with her troubled parents, gets an unforgettable lesson in the costs—and rewards—of becoming a mean girl. Self-destruction, too, has its place in Kyle’s world as Lilly, the bright but unhappy young woman at the center of “Company of Strangers,” exemplifies. On the day her father dies, she takes her brother’s children to a theme restaurant and ends up in a kinky clinch with their pirate-costumed waiter, while the kids are in the next room. There is also the hard-drinking underachiever of the title story who hides out in a dead-end town waiting for her married boyfriend to come visit, only to be shocked out of her lethargy by an unlikely friendship with her troubled teen neighbor. The most conventionally hopeful story is told from an adolescent boy’s point of view, as he comes of age (but not like that) during an incredibly awkward cruise vacation in “Captain’s Club.” Throughout, Kyle (The God of Animals, 2007) shows a talent for exposing the hurt at the heart of our worst impulses. And she doesn’t judge. Her haunting characters, with their vulnerability and cruelty, live on in the imagination.
A strange, darkly humorous trip into the female psyche.