My first reaction on reading this book a few weeks ago was:
Run...do not walk & grab yourself a copy of this amazing collection of short stories from Nafissa Thompson-Spires. Long review percolating for the finish of #24in48readathon
Seriously. These are the best short stories I've read in a long time. Can't wait until she writes more.
It's usually quite hard to review collections because there's often at least a couple completely miss the mark. That, thankfully, is not true of this collection. Every story is a perfect jewel of its own kind. There's no monotony here from reading overly similar stories. There's no experimentation just for the sake of experimenting. While there is wide variety among the stories, the book is very cohesive and holds together as a collection extremely well; certainly better than any collection I can think of off the top of my head. I've been trying to review this for a while. It's hard to put into words, so I kept giving up, but I've done my best below.
I read this book in one sitting, then started again, slowed the pace and really savored the stories over an enforced "no more than" diet for about five days. That was hard to do. I've revisited it many times since. This is perhaps one of the best short story collections I've read since David Foster Wallace's collections were published. And in a very tangential way, it reminds me of him. OK, I know, bear with me here... Both writers made me feel that I was witnessing something very special, something that I am maybe not smart enough to fully grasp even if I love the writing. They are brilliant while being completely entertaining. Intelligent while not showing off. Completely themselves and completely individual while being able to draw the reader in quickly. I suppose that's true of many collected short stories, but I did think early on "this is reminding me of another experience." I went to make sure I'd not read anything by the Nafissa Thompson-Spires before, and eventually it dawned on me where the weird sort-of deja vu came from. I also make that comparison in a very favorable way. They are wildly different, but both special snowflakes ;-)
I began to care quite a bit about these characters, which is why some stories just wouldn't be put off for a day. (I'm harboring a secret hope that we get a full novel or three involving Fatima, Christinia and definitely Violet.) While they aren't "linked short stories" some of the characters show up more than once, and in each story they are shown in a very different light. It's fabulous!
While many of the topics here are what we'd expect in 2018: police brutality, the vulnerability of black bodies, colorism, etc., many others aren't. They range from hilarious to macabre, from deadly to delightful and sometimes all of those things in one story. I had to do a bit of detection on some things, and I'm sure this is a function of my age and lack of social media savvy. Once I got a definition of "kawaii" or "ASMR," I was fine, and it wasn't ever difficult reading, no matter how brilliant I'm convinced the author is. In fact, it was deceptively easy to read these stories, and they really pack a punch long after the book is back on the shelf.
I won't list a hierarchy because there really is no way to do that with a collection this strong. I will say I loved reading about these characters and hope I get to hear more of Jilly's backstory, follow Fatima on what promises to be an interesting journey, learn more about Violet's interior life, and see where on earth Marjorie ends up.
I cannot stress this enough: Read This Book. No matter your race, creed, social status, any reader will find something to love between these covers.
A big thank you to Atria / 37 INK via Netgalley for the true pleasure they gave in allowing me to read an advance digital copy of this collection. This is a positive review, but it's all my own thoughts.