This is the debut collection of short fiction to grab this month. Barrodale is a former staffer at The Onion and the current fiction editor at Vice. Kirkus Reviews says of this collection, “Like many of her characters, Barrodale’s stories can be undisciplined, at times veering off in confusing directions. But even so, they remain compelling. You never know where they will take you or whether, at the end of the trip, your life won’t feel at least a little changed.” Publisher’s Weekly starred this collection: “The 10 stories in Barrodale’s stellar debut collection explore the complications of modern relationships….Barrodale is comfortable working in an impressive range of styles, and will surely pick up a number of admirers with this standout debut.”
Looking for a taut psychological thriller written by Amy Hempel that’s out in paperback this month? Oh, you think that doesn’t exist? IT DOES! A. J. Rich is the pen name for Jill Clement and Amy Hempel, who teamed up to write a novel based on the experience of a friend. The Hand That Feeds You opens with Morgan Prager’s grisly discovery of her fiancee’s body in her bed, where, police confirm, it has been mauled by dogs. As the story unfolds, Prager learns the unsettling, ultimately terrifying, truth; the man with whom she was prepared to spend the rest of her life is no one she knew at all. Part of what’s most engaging about this book is that Morgan Prager is not a naive victim. In fact, she is completing her thesis on victim psychology. In her trauma, she becomes her own case study. As Prager digs into her dead lover’s past, she digs into her own behavior, analyzing her instincts of trust, loyalty and affection, while reconciling the real person behind the brilliant fantasy she fell in love with.
Ozick tackles the relevance and necessity of book criticism right out of the gate in this collection. Ozick has seen it all, read it all and critiqued it all. You don’t have to agree with her, but if you want to argue with her, you better read this first.
Pond is a collection of some of the most unexpected, intelligent, thoughtful, delightful new fiction I’ve read. Irish writer Claire-Louise Bennett spirals towards the human heart of a solitary woman’s trials, troubles, life and circumstance by turning an intellectual microscope on her psychological minutiae in a style reminiscent of David Foster Wallace and Lydia Davis (two writers whose names I don’t throw around lightly). These stories are like a good first date; charming, surprising and a bit mysterious.
Did you catch that article in The Atlantic recently about how women are writing the best crime fiction right now? Did it take you by surprise? Meet Megan Abbott. She’s been writing psychologically thrilling crime fiction for years. Book after book, she nails it. Female protagonists. Deadly cheerleaders. Creepy, mysterious illnesses spreading through otherwise normal suburban towns. In this latest novel, the mother of a high school gymnast with Olympic hopes becomes obsessed with a murder that tears through their small sporting community. In person, Megan Abbott is delightful. On the page, she grips you with a dive into our darkest human potential. Just read her, y’all.