In even the most mundane lives, spectacular and shocking things can happen.
This is a collection of 10 unsettling short stories by Korean author Ha (Traversing Afternoon, 2017), one of the new wave of Korean women writers, thoughtfully translated by Hong. Ha has a gift for infusing elements of the fantastic into her tales of unremarkable people. Her protagonists are housewives, schoolgirls, and seemingly bland office workers whose daily lives eventually veer off into the surreal, the macabre, or the downright bizarre. Like those of the American auteur David Lynch, Ha’s characters seem to exist in another dimension. As these stories unfold, things become more surreal and eccentric. In the title story, “Flowers of Mold,” the hero, or maybe antihero, is a man who meticulously searches through his neighbors’ garbage bags looking for clues to their lives and personalities. His fervor goes up a notch when he becomes obsessed with his next-door neighbor and her ex-boyfriend. “Waxen Wings” is a modern retelling of the tale of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun, from the perspective of a former female gymnast. She longs to fly but grows too tall to compete and finds a much more extreme alternative. “Your Rearview Mirror” is the story of a department store security guard’s obsession with a pretty female customer who he eventually discovers has more than one dark secret. “The Woman Next Door” begins with a polite request to borrow a spatula and ends in a spiral of jealousy, shoplifting, and possibly madness. Even though this is a book of short stories, it’s definitely a page-turner, as readers encounter one strange, unsettling saga after another, always wondering, “What can possibly happen now?”
If you're looking for a book that will make you gasp out loud, you’ve found it.