This collection of horror stories about men at their lowest—enraged, depressed, violent—offers an unsettling glimpse into the seething underworld of toxic masculinity.
Meijer's (Northwood, 2018, etc.) firecracker debut collection, Heartbreaker, examined the wild, strange interior lives of girls and women. In this book, she strikes out into new territory, unearthing the anger and melancholy of male protagonists who revel in their own cruelty, power, and loneliness. Like Samantha Hunt and Carmen Maria Machado, Meijer wields strangeness to amplify the emotional realities of her narrators—and the consequences of their deranged, inhumane, and violent impulses. Her characters operate in worlds like our own, lusting after their customers at a local pizza shop or denying feelings they have for other men. But they are also vengeful ghosts of stillborn baby boys, rags used to murder wives, and dogs who steal the lace underthings of teenage girls. In "Pool," a teacher falls for the student lifeguard who saves his life only to reject the boy's affections. The detective in "Evidence" tracks a female serial killer but ultimately unearths his desire to become one of her victims. Other stories, like "Francis" and "Good Girls," literalize metaphors about the animalistic urges of men. But Meijer saves the scariest of all for "Viral," in which her lone female protagonist tapes and distributes a video of her former friend masturbating as an act of humiliation and revenge. "I'm in the car waiting for my boyfriend to kill her," the story opens. "She is pretty and very smart and she didn't want to go out with him and sometimes it's as simple as that. She screwed up." While at times her narrators can seem almost excessively cruel, Meijer's stories are an indictment of the indignities women—and other men—face every day as they dodge or appease the dangerous impulses and appetites of misogyny.
A rich, beautiful, and utterly terrifying book.