Poet Addonizio brings her hip, dark sensibility to a second collection of short fiction.
In the first story, a second-grade girl kills her goldfish and pet bird in reaction to being sexually exploited by her obese grandfather. In the second, two sleazy young women get drunk and rip off the guy in whose hotel room they've spent the night. In the third, a girl takes time during a meditation class to reflect on her dead sister. Abusive relationships, breakups and terminal illness fill out the other 10 stories, but in the most appealing of them, Addonizio (Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, 2009, etc.) doses her basic mix of hopelessness and alienation with cleverness and whimsy. A story about a girl who's half vampire has several laughs, the title story has fun with its circus setting, and two of the others, "The Hag's Journey" and "Ever After," reinvent fairy-tale tropes in ways that would be delightful if they didn't end so badly. In the latter, the Seven Dwarfs are a ragtag bunch of fellows living in a fifth-floor walk-up: a junkie named Dopey, a teen runaway named Sneezy, a recovering alcoholic named Doc, etc., most employed as faux munchkins at a restaurant called Oz. They're awaiting the fulfillment of a prophecy they read about in a book found in a Dumpster, one involving a beautiful girl and an apple. Unsurprisingly, things go south. "[M]y name isn't Grumpy," said Grumpy. "It's Carlos....I'm sick of all of you with your fake names and voodoo loser fantasies about some chick who ain't coming. She ain't coming, man. Get it through your fat heads."
The worldview of this book is so bleak it might need a warning label.