Stories explore the inner turmoil of characters struggling against the constraints of family, religion, and love.
At the end of “Mother of the Bride Dress,” the sixth story in Kuipers’ debut collection, a late-middle-aged woman shimmies across the dance floor at her daughter’s wedding. Recently reinvigorated by a stray compliment and attendance at a Pentecostal church service, the woman notices her daughter watching her “with delight or perhaps with derision” but decides that the look “would turn to delight if she danced long enough.” Kuipers is especially interested in working toward these types of quiet revelations, though they aren’t always for the better. In “Holy Oil,” a young girl who tries to exorcise her wily younger brother with oil she bought from a TV preacher has to confront the reality of televangelism—and her family. In “Road Pizza,” a group of friends can no longer find ways to communicate after a freak accident shadows their relationships. Kuipers grew up in a Dutch-Canadian Christian community, and many of her stories are shot through with spiritual turmoil, though her treatment of this turmoil is satisfyingly nuanced. In “Happy All the Time,” one of Kuipers’ few male protagonists is able to cope with an abrasive stepfather by turning to youth groups and Bible study until his commitment to God turns him into the type of man he was trying to run away from. These are quiet stories, sometimes eschewing traditional notions of arc and climax, and often quite short; the result is that they can feel more like blueprints for stories than full narratives. But Kuipers’ light touch and eye for telling details will keep the reader wanting more.
A collection of delicate sketches that mark Kuipers as a writer of promise.