Eleven stories showcase a dexterous use of language and a startling, if frequently elusive, imagination as ghosts, aliens, and the living dead invade the most mundane aspects of everyday life.
Newcomer Link references fairy tales, mythology, and bits of our common contemporary cultural experience, not to offer commentary but to take off on her own original riffs. So in “Shoe and Marriage” we meet a dictator’s widow, unavoidably reminiscent of Imelda Marcos, living in a museum that displays the shoes she took from her husband’s murder victims. The story, which also describes a bizarre beauty pageant, plays verbally with shoe metaphors from Cinderella’s slippers to Dorothy’s ruby reds, but what touches you is not the author’s verbal acrobatics but the widow’s deep sense of sorrow and horror. Like many of the pieces here, “Shoe and Marriage” joins disparate parts that don’t always fit together, but linear connections are not the aim. When she depends too much on pure cleverness, Link ends up sounding derivative and brittle. “Survivor’s Ball, or The Donner Party,” in which two travelers come to an inn where a creepy if lavish shindig is in full swing, reminds you too insistently of Poe. “Flying Lessons,” about a girl’s love for a boy whose desire to fly ends tragically (hint, hint), and “Travels With the Snow Queen,” in which the fairy tale is revamped to read cute, come across as writing-school literary. But at her best, Link produces oddly moving imagery. In “Louise’s Ghost,” two friends named Louise have overlapping affairs. The shared name at first seems like another joke, but the tale gradually digs deep into the emotionally charged waters of loss and redemption.
Stylistic pyrotechnics light up a bizarre but emotionally truthful landscape. Link’s a writer to watch.