One of the fiction-writing super powers I admire most is the ability to inhabit a wide range of characters and worlds, and to write about each of them with great empathy and understanding. In her story collection This Far Isn’t Far Enough, Lynn Sloan shows a special gift in this regard. She immerses us in the lives of everyone from a deceived and disillusioned widow, to an anxious soldier pulled into a possibly criminal scheme, to a worried mother of an aspiring prizefighter. As Sloan explores the inner and outer and conflicts that these characters face, she does so with deep feeling and insight.
Favorite New Fiction
from Small and Micro Publishers
Unraveling a mystery
Christopher Irvin’s novel Ragged; or, The Loveliest Lies of All is a page tuner of a mystery/crime thriller, interwoven with a captivating story of family and community. The fact that all the characters are animals never distanced me from the drama; to the contrary, it provided a bracing reminder of the degree to which we’re driven by beastly instincts, which are never as far from the surface as we might wish to believe.
KL Pereira’s captivating new collection of short fiction, A Dream Between Two Rivers, carries the subtitle “Stories of Liminality.” True to that description, many of the stories explore experiences of being on the verge—or at the edge—of a new identity, reality, or understanding. This makes for dynamic storytelling, as does the fact that the collection isn’t tied down by any one stylistic convention.
Many of the stories draw on elements of myths, folklore, or fairytales, and like those types of tales, they take us into strange, often dark situations that, however surreal, echo the emotional and psychological struggles of lived human experience.
A woman is delivered to love—and, later, to grief—by the powers of the moon and the sea; a father who can speak for the dead, and a son who can speak for animals, find that they can’t communicate with each other; Death, in his adolescence, moves reluctantly toward adulthood and his powers of annihilation.
These are just a few of the characters and situations that figure into Kellie Wells’s fabulist story collection God, the Moon, and Other Megafauna, winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction. Although this book is slim, its stories are as detail-dense and strange as an enchanted forest, and they are nothing that can or should be rushed through.
Daniel Taylor’s forthcoming novel, Death Comes to the Deconstructionist, is an engrossing and satisfying whodunit. But the central character and sleuth, Jon Mote, finds himself uncovering and confronting secrets every bit as dark as the murder case he’s been asked to help solve, and the stories of those confrontations are just as captivating.
The novel opens after the murder of Richard Pratt, chair of a local university’s English Department and a bright, though dimming, star in the academic universe. Years before, Pratt was also Jon’s doctoral advisor, and his criticism of his protégé’s dissertation-in-progress (“theoretically naïve” is just one of Pratt’s disparaging descriptions of the work) helped nudge Jon toward an early exit from graduate school.
In the best of times, in the best of personal circumstances, looking for work is a pain in the ass. But in a sagging economy, and especially for job hunters who are running on financial and spiritual fumes, this task can bring on an existential crisis.
Jarrod Shanahan’s darkly hilarious illustrated novella, It’s a Tough Economy, portrays just such a crisis.