In these stories, the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children’s game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear. With sentences that crackle and spark and showcase her trademark wit, McCracken traces how our closely held desires – for intimacy, atonement, comfort – bloom and wither against the indifferent passing of time.
Fizzing with energy and wit, Mira Sethi’s funny and moving stories of people at sea in a society negotiating its way between East and West gives us a portrait of contemporary Pakistan as we’ve never seen it before.
‘Man Hating Psycho’ is the caustic new collection of stories from visionary writer Iphgenia Baal. Interrogating the disconnect between our public identities and real-life selves, Baal exposes the inherent duplicity of online communication. With black and disquieting humour, thirteen playful texts disparage the highly-profitable superstitions that are the scaffolding of our current social order.
A woman and man, parted a quarter of a century, reunite in a bar in New Orleans as the St Patrick’s Day parade goes by. A divorced suburban dad helps his daughter pick out a card for her friend who’s moving away. A group of friends in late middle age, all once promising, reunite for dinner when one of their number loses her husband, but the gathering splinters when bitter revelations about their shared past emerge. Two teenage boys sit in a drive-in, the air thick with the scent of gin and popcorn and longing. A visionary collection of luminous landscapes, of great moments in small lives, of the people we carry with us long after they are gone, ‘Sorry for Your Trouble’ takes disappointment, ageing, grief, love and marriage and silhouettes them against the heady backdrop of Irish America in the past and present.
Anna Wood’s debut short story collection slides from sharply observed comic dialogue to surrealism on the turn of a dime. These are sparkling, vividly alive stories to bolster you on a dark night, more fortifying than a shot of whisky, to make you sing with pleasure and the triumph of the will.
An immeasurably influential female voice in post-war Japanese literature, Kono writes with a strange and disorienting beauty: her tales are marked by disquieting scenes, her characters all teetering on the brink of self-destruction. In the famous title story, the protagonist loathes young girls but compulsively buys expensive clothes for little boys so that she can watch them dress and undress. Taeko Kono’s detached gaze at these events is transfixing: What are we hunting for? And why? Kono rarely gives the reader straightforward answers, rather reflecting, subverting and examining their expectations, both of what women are capable of, and of the narrative form itself.
Spare, taut and told with flashes of pitch-black humour, the short stories of Norwegian master Kjell Askildsen capture all the strangeness of modern existence. In this selection of tales, spanning the whole of his brilliant career, unnerving encounters occur, lonely individuals try to connect, families and relationships are fractured, and we are confronted by the fragility and absurdity of life.
The eight masterly stories in this collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music, and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.
Through childhood hopefulness, teenage delinquency, faded first love and middle-aged disillusionment, James Clarke’s extraordinary novel in stories takes us into the Hollow in the Land, a Lancashire valley no longer than ten miles end to end. If you’re born here, you’ll likely spend the rest of your life here, and even those who do make it beyond the bypass often find themselves drawn back. This is a place where the realities of regional decline and political indifference play out in people’s lives: in run-down pubs and sitting rooms, dead-end jobs and black-economy gigs, for-profit care homes, Traveller sites and abandoned warehouses. Clarke’s writing is unsentimental but retains a fierce empathy for the lives it is describing. Through a wide range of characters at every stage of life, Clarke shows us how much of what we become is defined by where we are from.
A.L. Kennedy’s collection of stories show us women and men wrestling with the lives they have been given and the times spinning out around them. Humour, fantasy, rage and despair both help and hinder individuals as they navigate their changing circumstances, their accumulating losses, their moments of comprehension and tenderness.
A masterpiece of contemporary Gothic from the internationally acclaimed author of Things We Lost in the Fire’Mariana Enriquez is a mesmerizing writer who demands to be read. Like BolaÃ¯Â¿Â½o, she is interested in matters of life and death, and her fiction hits with the full force of a train’ Dave EggersWelcome to Buenos Aires, a city thrumming with murderous intentions and morbid desires, where missing children come back from the dead and unearthed bones carry terrible curses. These brilliant, unsettling tales of revenge, witchcraft, fetishes, disappearances and urban madness spill over with women and girls whose dark inclinations will lead them over the edge.
In her stunning debut, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees in a nameless city, illuminating hopes, disappointments, love affairs, and above all, the pursuit of a place to belong.
‘The Quarry’ is a collection of interconnected short stories set in the fictional, working class, West London based Quarry Lane estate. The characters and settings reappear as themes of ambition, addiction and social mobility are examined in this state-of-the-nation book. The stories focus on a diverse collection of working class men and considers the concept of masculinity in a world where gender and gender roles are being revolutionised.