Sunday, December 15, 2013

This Is Not Your City by Caitlin Horrocks

Women confront devastations, small and large

Most of these stories are set in the US heartland, but some are set in Northeast Europe, land of ice and snow and winter darkness. What I liked was that, for the most part, the stories are truly original. They don’t feel like anything you’ve read before. The better ones were weirder. The more conventional stories at times fell flat, with an overreliance on medical tragedy. Lots of imagination and ambition here. The writing and characterization are excellent, and the created worlds felt very alive.

I loved Embodied –about a Wells Fargo auditor in Des Moines who knows something big, something big she can’t tell. A tale with a scary twist. Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui had a great title, but the plot was a little sentimental. It Looks Like This uses black and white pictures, like Sebald, to tell a quirky story about a girl and her sick mother and the Amish. Going to Estonia felt very real, about two sad sacks Finns who take a ferry ride, but bleak. Zero Conditional was about an uncredentialled teacher who terrorizes the kids. (Reminded me of Aimee Bender’s novel about an uncredentialled teacher who terrorizes the kids.) This is Not Your City is about a Russian mail order bride trying to figure out an alien culture as well as her teenage daughter. You think it’s about one intractable problem then it turns out to be about another.

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