Farrar. Sept. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780374191948. $26.
The stories in Bynum’s new collection are linked not by recurring characters or settings but by a certain sensibility. Each is an acutely realistic and nuanced depiction of a relationship—whether between friends, spouses, parent and child—often with an additional element of fairy tale or fantasy that keeps readers slightly off-kilter. In “The Erlking,” the opening story, a mother and daughter experience an Elves Faire at a Waldorf School in their own parallel realities, the mother in an echo chamber of her own parental insecurities and anxieties, the daughter glimpsing the vaguely menacing magic behind the cutesy facade. In “The Burglar,” aspects of a woman’s encounter with a petty thief mirror a script that her husband is writing for a supernatural TV crime show. In “The Bears,” a woman convalescing at a writer’s retreat after a miscarriage has a Goldilocks-like experience in a beautiful house with which she becomes obsessed on her solitary walks. The longest story, “Many a Little Makes,” is an exceedingly tender and raw depiction of an adolescent friendship among three girls, viewed from a distance.
VERDICT A striking and memorable collection of surprising stories and shifting identities.
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