A dark and surprising new voice in short fiction.

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HEARTBREAKER

STORIES

The edgy stories in Meijer’s debut collection cut like so many wild teeth: sharp, deep, and unforgiving.

Whether they’re seeking out sex or companionship, outrunning or embracing cruelty, the female characters in these 13 stories take all the air out of the room. Throughout the collection, Meijer breaks open taboos about sex, disability, melancholy, and violence with the careful precision of a teenager egging the house of her mortal enemy. Here is all the raw anger, fear, malice, lust, and confusion of women used to threats, stalking, and ceaseless observation, who live with their lives hanging every day in the balance. In fiction, Meijer seems to say, they have a shot at making their own rules—and the results are strange, unsettling, and addictive. The foundling in “Love, Lucy” is determined to prove her disturbing lineage to the kind man who fostered her, with devastating consequences. In “Whole Life Ahead,” a ghost simply wants to be left alone, although a delusional man seems set on making her his girlfriend. And, in “Fugue,” three teens who think they have a shot at intimidating a young gas station attendant into sex have a terrifying—and heartbreaking—surprise waiting for them. In deft, clear prose, Meijer takes everyday moments of loss and loneliness and threads them through with elements of the gothic, fantasy, and fairy tale. “If it’s not sex and not food and not a night out with the girls then what is it that I need? What is the nature of this hole and with what do I seal it up?” Kathleen asks herself in “The Daddy,” a strange and sad tale about a woman who, discontent with her marriage, turns to a fetish website for comfort. Taut and ruthless, Meijer's tales somehow manage to be both believable in their strangeness and recognizable in their pointed cruelties. Here are the misfits, the overweight, and the lonely. The obsessives and the broken. Here are the monsters—and they look an awful lot like you.

A dark and surprising new voice in short fiction.

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-53606-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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