A promising debut collection of short fiction and other ephemera from McCarty (English/ Salisbury Univ.).
The author offers a surprising diversity of tone scattered among the kinds of solid short stories that emerge from places like the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The first of three distinct sections, “Animalia,” strongly represents melancholic remembrances. The book opens with the title story, a travelogue about crisscrossing New York City during a hot summer. The next story, “Fellowship," concerns a teenage girl who's dealing with her parents’ imminent divorce while simultaneously finding sexual frustration with the abstinent Christian boy to whom she’s attached herself. “Indirect Object” describes an uncomfortable encounter between a tutor and the father of one of his students. Another, “The Fat of the Land,” is about what it’s like to become soft when exchanging Manhattan for Iowa. The middle section, “Histology,” is brief, as are the flash fictions included within. They’re slight experiments like “Passive Aggressive,” which lays out all the reasons a woman is not speaking to her partner in advance of a girls’ weekend in Las Vegas. The final third, “Bacterium,” is where McCarty gets far more experimental with her storytelling. “Field Reports” amusingly examines a sexual encounter in the form of a lab report detailing blood alcohol levels, costuming, and body posture. The social satire “Another Zombie Story” takes aim at the deadening of life through technology. The final few stories fall back on more Midwestern slice-of-life moments centered on brash, masculine protagonists familiar to anyone who grew up in rural America. The collection sums itself up with “Anamesis: An Epilogue,” a kind of self-survey that notes a variety of conditions ranging from “Consistently underhydrated” to “One failed relationship ending in death.”
Nothing astonishing here; just a gifted purveyor of American short fiction working on her craft and offering up the results.