Riverhead. Feb. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9780525534877. $26; . f ;.
In past books, Yuknavitch (The Small Backs of Children) has used fiction, sf, memoir, and essays to investigate the ways narrative can address trauma. The 20 short, sharp stories in this new collection take on similar terrain—the many ways violence is internalized, how the sense of being an outsider persists, the unconventional ways survivors find to heal themselves. Yuknavitch’s imagery is visceral, and the mood skews angry throughout the collection; themes of sexual violence—often against children—may be triggering for readers. But she writes with a darkly beautiful precision, and her compassion for outcasts and damaged souls offers an underlying tenderness while avoiding redemptive clichés. The standout “Street Walker,” in which a tenuously middle-class former addict, unsure of her own motives, pays a prostitute to sit in her living room for an hour, embodies the hard knowledge Yuknavitch’s characters hold in their cores: “Turns out a sex worker and a recovering addict and a literature teacher each carry around the same question in their bodies: Does it hurt more to keep the secrets or to tell them?”
VERDICT A dark and often unsettling collection that some readers will find difficult but that will reward those seeking fierce, intimate writing. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/19.]

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