What an unnerving, unsettling collection of stories this is. And I mean that in the best possible way. Author Arimah crosses lines from strictly realistic to the world of magical realism with a deft hand, and it keeps the reader unbalanced--is this story real? Magical? And most of all, how's it going to end?
But it's also a gut-wrenching read in which many of the tales are about people who face terrible things in their childhood. We all know some people recover well from early childhood tragedy, and some do not. That leads to a lot of breath-holding: How will these children go forward? When they've been hurt, betrayed, neglected? Often Arimah leaves the future unknown, for the reader to fill in, and that's excruciating (again, in a good way) as well.
These are stories about a girl with a mother who teaches her how to fake injuries in grocery stores in order to be able to sue the store for money, except not all the injuries are fake. Or a girl whose father has been emotionally scarred by war. Or a young woman whose beloved mother comes back from the dead. Or a girl who, at a very young age, is characterized by her grandfather as having something rotten in her. How do you recover from that?
I loved this collection. The only story that fell flat for me was one written about the Ant God and River God, a kind of parable/myth/fable that kept me more at arm's reach than the other stories did. Still, one story I didn't like out of 12? Not bad at all. This is one I should revisit in October. And definitely, definitely can't wait to see what the author does next.