SHORT STORIES  | Daily Mail Online


SHORT STORIES

Spry, compassionate and sparklingly funny, Heiny's stories are pure reading pleasure

Spry, compassionate and sparklingly funny, Heiny’s stories are pure reading pleasure

SHORT STORIES

GAMES AND RITUALS 

by Katherine Heiny (4th Estate £16.99, 240pp)

Spry, compassionate and sparklingly funny, Heiny’s stories are pure reading pleasure, as her flawed, lovable characters find themselves at the mercy of life’s mischievous twists and heart-breaking turns.

There’s the joyful Damascus, where a mother with a chequered past wonders if her gentle teenage son, Gordey, is high on life or ‘super baked’ on drugs. Then there’s the bewildered, middle-aged man in CobRa, who wonders if he still sparks joy in his dissatisfied wife, who’s on a Marie Kondo-inspired tidying up mission of their house, shared possessions and possibly himself.

Fractious daughter-father relationships take their turn in Twist And Shout, where a curmudgeonly dad has ‘mistaken his four-thousand-dollar hearing aid for a cashew and eaten it’, while the winsome Chicken–Flavoured And Lemon-Scented sees pregnant driving-test examiner Colette negotiate speed bumps and sudden stops with unexpected aplomb.

Gothic and brilliantly grim, these uneasy tales from the author of Tender Is The Flesh are as shadowy as night even in the bright glare of sunshine

Gothic and brilliantly grim, these uneasy tales from the author of Tender Is The Flesh are as shadowy as night even in the bright glare of sunshine

19 CLAWS AND A BLACK BIRD 

by Agustina Bazterrica (Pushkin Press £12.99, 192pp)

Gothic and brilliantly grim, these uneasy tales from the author of Tender Is The Flesh are as shadowy as night even in the bright glare of sunshine, as Bazterrica’s darkly macabre imagination works like talon and beak, capable of tearing apart everyday situations and transforming them into something horribly chilling.

A body plummets onto a breakfast-time patio, pulling asunder the carefully controlled world of a young woman (A Light, Swift And Monstrous Sound), a bad break-up burns through the usual tropes — tears, binges on own-brand biscuits, the destruction of photographs of the ex while whispering ‘You broke my heart into a thousand pieces’ — but then out comes a revolver (Candy Pink), while the supernatural The Solitary Ones places a woman in the unwanted company of two figures who look like ‘there’s a scream trapped inside them’.

Here, runaway horses are dragged behind jeeps in the distressing Steer

Here, runaway horses are dragged behind jeeps in the distressing Steer

SIDLE CREEK 

by Jolene McIlwain (Melville House £14.99, 212pp)

Set in the fictional Sidle Creek, high in the hardscrabble Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania, these tender, tough tales capture a timeless rural America, where nature is restorative, work days are long and emotions are unpredictable.

Peopled by hunters, bar staff, farmers, saw-mill employees and ever-hopeful young girls, theirs is a world of beauty and brutality described in shimmering poetic prose by debut author McIlwain. 

Here, runaway horses are dragged behind jeeps in the distressing Steer, and the waitresses at the local bar, dressed in scarlet boots and old cheerleader uniforms, become part of a murder mystery when one of their own is killed (Those Red Boots).



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