Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review: "This is Not Your City" by Caitlin Horrocks

What a breathtaking short story collection Caitlin Horrocks has created. The 11 stories in This is Not Your City all have female protagonists, and each is facing some type of struggle, whether it's dealing with an unhappy relationship (romantic or familial), confronting your fears, hating your job (and those you deal with), or even having your cruise ship hijacked by pirates. But these stories aren't all heavy, depressing ones—Horrocks brings the right balance of emotion, humor, and seriousness (when appropriate) to each.

I really enjoyed every story in this collection, although one was marred by missing pages in the Kindle version. But several stood out above the others—Zolaria, a woman's reflections on a childhood friend and confronting the fears that have plagued her since then; Zero Conditional, which followed a young woman who finds herself teaching but literally loathes her job and her students; World Champion Cow of the Insane, a tale of young marriage and questioning whether to trust your heart or someone else's assertions about your mate; Embodied, which follows a woman who believes she is on her 127th life, and is confronting a soul that did her wrong in a previous life—but in an unusual way; and In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui, about a couple escaping the sadness of their daily lives on a cruise, only to have the ship hijacked by pirates.

What I love about good short stories is that you come to care deeply about the characters and are sad when the stories end. I felt that way with almost every story in this collection, and honestly believe Horrocks could take nearly every one and turn it into a book of its own. If you enjoy short stories, definitely pick up This is Not Your City, and you'll marvel at both the author's writing ability and her skill at creating so many different characters and situations, nearly all of which feel authentic in their own way.

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