The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The publisher sent this to me, and I read and enjoyed the first story, but then this book was swept up in a cleaning endeavor and I went looking for it today. I'm so glad I did; these are wonderful. They make me think of the feeling of the first story collection I read by Karen Russell - the wholly underappreciated St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, and also some touches of the earlier stories of Aimee Bender. The shared characteristics are touches of imagination or unreality, significant enough that it effects the characters, but small enough that the reader can choose to explain them away (insanity? hyperbole?)
The setting of these stories is a lot of fun too. I think of them as magical suburbia. The first story is about a woman bringing home inflatable lawn versions of Mary and Jesus, and they start speaking to her. Another has two female friends who are injecting each other - one to help her get pregnant and the other to transform into a horse. That one has some true sticking power. Many of the characters are unhappy in their relationships and sexuality, or at least they know that what they have isn't quite the right fit yet. There is this combination of awkwardness and yearning that really works, and it feels like it is a thread throughout the stories.
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