I guess I’ve been on a bit of a short-story kick lately. After reviewing Susan Minot’s new book, Why I Don’t Write, and rediscovering the lovely, independent little universes of short fiction, I picked up another new collection—Laura van den Berg’s I Hold A Wolf By the Ears—and dove right in.
And this one, my friends, is even better.
The 11 delicious morsels in this collection explore grief, misogyny, friendship, violence and other topics with an approach that’s both fairy tale and ghost story. In these stories, van den Berg takes you places with vivid prose—Florida, Iceland, Sicily, Mexico City—but nothing is really what it seems.
In “Lizards,” a woman gets worked up about a scandalous Supreme Court confirmation (Justice Brett Kavanaugh, anyone?), until her husband mutes her with sedative-laced seltzer. In “The Pitch,” a woman literally watches her husband disappear into the trees. In “Slumberland,” a grieving mother drives around at night taking photographs because she can’t stand the sound of her apartment neighbor crying through the walls.
The stories are haunting, unsettling and absolutely unique—reminiscent of Lauren Groff’s Florida, but with touches of Karen Russell or Edgar Allan Poe. Some, like “Volcano House,” are sweaty fever dreams, with real characters struggling to deal with reality.
“I tried to explain to my sister how life felt like circling a giant dome,” van den Berg writes, “knocking and knocking on the smooth shell, searching for the door. Real life was happening in there, I was sure—if only I could find my way inside.”
Find your way inside this collection, and you’ll lose yourself in the most glorious, unforgettable way.
Follow Suzanne Perez on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.