We have added several short story titles to our ever-growing Book Club in a Bag collection! Follow these links to read more about each new addition:
All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva: Sachdeva's striking story collection, her first book, explores everyday conflicts in highly imaginative ways. In shifting place and time, characters are confounded by the tidal pull of love and loss as well as the disruptive forces of change. Logging Lake follows a man in the aftermath of heartbreak as he goes on a spur-of-the-moment camping trip with an unusual woman he meets online. In Anything You Might Want, Gina, disillusioned with her town and her father's strict upbringing, runs away with Michael, who owes her father a significant gambling debt, a trip that takes an unexpected turn when they make a stop in Michael's hometown. Other tales embrace the otherworldly an America governed by aliens, a fisherman with a growing obsession over a mermaid. Pleiades follows septuplets who become mysteriously ill and begin to die one by one in a haunting tale that pits the marvels of science against the power of the heart. Though some of Sachdeva's nine tales bend into the surreal, they never lose the pulse of the human spirit, creating a distinctive, thought-provoking work.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro: It's said that the devil is in the details, but in Munro's pristine and enrapturing stories, the details hold magic. Her celebrated stories work not only because her characters are so utterly human in their mixed feelings but also because she lavishes keen attention on every article of clothing, body feature, setting, and carefully dealt line of dialogue. Munro's people are insular country folk living simply and earnestly in small towns in Ontario or outside Vancouver, and while they chafe against tradition, they are leery of outright conflict or any talk that might seem intrusive or self-aggrandizing. Thoughts and feelings, especially women's, are to be kept to one's self. Munro's male characters, such as the biology teacher done in by creationists in Comfort, are fascinating, but her piercing and witty stories revolve around women navigating the vagaries of marriage, bolstering frail egos and burying desire while coming to the rescue in the face of illness and death. But there are women, too, who walk away from duty, seeking solitude, even the solace of writing. Opulent in their beauty and gem-bright psychology, the extraordinary stories in Munro's tenth stellar collection span the spectrum from romance to tales of manners to deep meditations on love and mortality, and all evince Munro's profound understanding of the power of memories and the stories we tell ourselves.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies. A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls-with-bells-for-eyes. Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin: Begin reading a Berlin short story and you know immediately that you are in the presence of a unique and searing literary force. Volume editor Stephen Emerson provides biographical background since Berlin's peripatetic life (Alaska, Albuquerque, Chile, the Bay Area), three marriages, four sons, and rising and falling income levels and wildly varied jobs provided her with fertile material for her tales of shattering perception, razor humor, and whiplash surprise. Berlin is exceptionally attuned to the randomness of life, its pains, and pleasures, our vulnerability, and resiliency. She portrays a young, grieving, acidly witty woman taking measure of the aberrations she witnesses as a cleaning woman; an abandoned, pregnant wife considering an abortion; a nurse cradling an injured jockey. As characters recur and settings and predicaments vary, Berlin unflinchingly strips bare casual and catastrophic cruelty and injustice, dramatizing, as one narrator puts it, times of intense technicolor happiness and times that were sordid and frightening. An essential collection of jazzy, jolting, incisive, wryly funny, and keenly compassionate, virtuoso tales.
Tenth of December by George Saunders: Saunders, a self-identified disciple of Twain and Vonnegut, is hailed for the topsy-turvy, gouging satire in his three previous, keenly inventive short story collections. In the fourth, he dials the bizarreness down a notch to tune into the fantasies of his beleaguered characters, ambushing readers with waves of intense, unforeseen emotion. Saunders drills down to secret aquifers of anger beneath ordinary family life as he portrays parents anxious to defang their children but also to be better, more loving parents than their own. The title story is an absolute heart-wringer, as a pudgy, misfit boy on an imaginary mission meets up with a dying man on a frozen pond. In Victory Lap, a young-teen ballerina is princess-happy until calamity strikes, an emergency that liberates her tyrannized neighbor, Kyle, the palest kid in all the land. In Home, family friction and financial crises combine with the trauma of a court-martialed Iraq War veteran, to whom foe and ally alike murmur inanely, Thank you for your service. Saunders doesn't neglect his gift for surreal situations. There are the inmates subjected to sadistic neurological drug experiments in Escape from Spiderhead and the living lawn ornaments in The Semplica Girl Diaries. These are unpredictable, stealthily funny, and complexly affecting stories of ludicrousness, fear, and rescue.
Annotations courtesy of BookList