This Is Not Your City

This Is Not Your City: Stories. Sarabande. Jul. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9781932511918. pap. $15.95.
Not a blockbuster, but this book really intrigues me; Horrocks recently won the $10,000 Plimpton Prize, given each year by the Paris Review for the best work by an emerging writer to appear in its pages. Judging from a few pieces, her writing is forthright and unfussy but with unsettling little shadows: a woman on a cruise ship held by pirates writes postcards her disabled son will never read, for instance. Read if you want to know who's coming.
This debut collection moves from the Midwest to Russia, Greece, Estonia, and a cruise ship off the coast of Africa. Most of the main characters are women, mostly young and naive, who find themselves in situations they can't comprehend. Many, like the woman in the title story and another on vacation at a Greek seaside resort ("The Lion Gate"), have entered into a foreign culture or an unfamiliar situation, leading to misunderstanding, alienation, and a deepening sense of psychological confusion. The woman in the story "Embodied" has an absolute belief in her sense of reincarnation and in identifying past lives of others, which leads to a tragic occurrence. In "Zolaria," a woman recalls her childhood and a close friendship with a neighbor who contracted cancer and died.
VERDICT The author has a fine eye for detail in description and scene setting and moves the story lines along jaggedly so the reader is caught off guard and disoriented like the characters. Many of the stories are bleak, painfully and realistically detailing lives gone awry, to sometimes disturbing effect. Recommended for savvy fiction readers. [See Prepub Alert, 2/21/11.]—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta

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