When I saw that this collection had won The Iowa Short Fiction Award, I was expecting something along the lines of Paul Harding and Marilynne Robinson. You know, slow-paced plot and elegant, graceful sentences. The drama of real life, not the opera of so much of contemporary fiction. I could not have been more wrong.

These are strange and powerful stories, ones that make Marquez look mellow. With the exception of “opal one, opal two” (which probably should come earlier in the collection and almost certainly deserves more attention than I gave it),   Now that I think about it, many of the stories are about girls and women. There is a violence to stories like “Dye Job” and “Quiet Camp” that is still ringing in my ears. “So Many WIngs” is haunting; “Beanstalk” is beautiful.

So read it. . . and read it slowly. In my lifelong quest to encourage children to read, I may even share 1-2 of the stories with students. “This is allowed,” I will say. “Let your imagination run wild.”

I do worry about Mellas though. What will she do next? Will she feel pressured to top herself?

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