Children learn to navigate a treacherous world—and childish adults help create that treachery—in these stories from first-time author Adamczyk.
In an early story in this collection, “Too Much a Child,” a young teacher lives in a city where children are being taken. No one is sure by whom or for what purpose: Something is happening here that is more sanctioned, and therefore, more sinister, than simple kidnappings. Tensions in the city are peaking, and demonstrations are breaking out with citizens demanding justice. On a bus, the teacher sits next to a small toddler and imagines kidnapping the little girl herself to keep her safe: “The desire of it was so plain, rising up, bursting out so fast, it was like something I’d spilled all over myself.” These off-kilter desires propel many of the characters here. There is the young woman who tries to communicate with her older sister, grieving a lost marriage, by writing notes to her in hair on their shared shower wall (“Needless to Say”). A graduate student throws herself at a long-haul trucker when her Abraham Lincoln–scholar boyfriend proves too tame for her impetuous spirit (“Here Comes Your Man”). In the unforgettable “Girls,” three young sisters whose parents are going through a divorce try to sate their curiosity about the contents of their grandmother’s upper floor and encounter an unsettling figure there. Adamczyk clearly values symbolism and subtlety, which can leave readers with the feeling of looking at a photograph taken in the aftermath of a major action that has taken place just outside the frame. But despite the sometimes-frustrating mystery at the core of the stories, Adamczyk has a singular imagination and an often astonishing way with metaphor.
A challenging and unsettling collection that heralds a promising talent.