Morgan takes a radical approach to the linked-story collection in her first book, shaping a young woman's life in tales that range from naturalistic to wildly speculative fiction.
Different though they are, these stories all offer perspectives on the title character—or, at least, some version of her. This isn’t the kind of conventional collection in which glimpses of a character at different points of her life are arranged in chronological order. Nora doesn’t have just one life but multiple existences in alternate realities. The book opens with a virtuoso tale in which one of the Noras, murdered when she is 28, reflects in lyrical prose on key moments in her life as another, matter-of-fact voice recites the details of her autopsy. One Nora falls victim to a drug-addled trucker while hitchhiking, and another gives birth first to a baby made of “newsprint and twine” and then to one that is simply a “ball of fur.” Many of the Noras are young, pre-pubescent or adolescent, just discovering their own bodies or those of others. Sex, often linked with violence, is a constant in the stories, like the one in which the young Nora and a friend explore each other so thoroughly that one of them is completely devoured, or the one in which an older Nora forms an uneasy connection with a sex robot she names Noreen. The stories, often experimental, share in common not so much their plots or structures but recurring motifs: the transformation of humans into birds, an angry mother dying of cancer, the messy details of bodily existence. Often, the stories have more than one teller, inviting the reader to hold two separate perspectives on a series of events simultaneously.
Morgan’s stories may not be for the squeamish or the easily baffled, but open-minded readers ready for a challenge will delight in discovering the many sides of her mysterious heroine.