Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: "Get in Trouble: Stories" by Kelly Link

With her latest story collection, Get in Trouble, Kelly Link takes readers to some fascinating and sometimes unique places, populated with tremendously intriguing and compelling characters. While I've seen this book classified as science fiction and fantasy, I think it's probably more the latter than the former. But neither term can accurately convey the appeal of these stories.

Many of the stories in this collection are about relationships—between siblings (when one has technically sprung from the other's shadow); best friends (when one of them has a lifelike, life-size, animated doll that another covets); ex-lovers and former actors (one of whom is hosting a ghost hunting show); and total strangers (when one is a 15-year-old girl who pretended to be an adult while playing an online game, and goes to a hotel to meet her much older onscreen companion). But while the core themes of these stories are typical, the way Link lets the stories unfold is anything but.

So many story collections these days have what I call "nuggets": stories that seem to end before they really pick up momentum. The stories in Get in Trouble are substantive, and really wrap you up in a fully-fleshed narrative. (Longer stories are great as long as you like them.)

I really enjoyed eight of the nine stories in this collection, but some of my favorites included: "The Lesson," in which a gay couple attends an old friend's wedding on a remote island while they're awaiting the birth of their child via a surrogate they're not 100 percent sure about; "The Summer People," which tells the story of a teenage girl growing up in rural North Carolina, who is the caretaker of a house occupied by mysterious residents who make good—and bad—things happen; "I Can See Right Through You," about when a pair of former ex-lovers and actors who are always tied to each other emotionally have a reunion in Florida, where one is hosting a ghost-hunting television show; "The New Boyfriend," about a group of best friends and one's life-size, likelike, doll "boyfriends"; and "Light," a unique story about a woman plagued by her twin brother, who actually sprung from her extra shadow.

I had never read anything Link has written before, but I am utterly enamored of her storytelling ability. Even though I do read some fantasy and science fiction books, I tend to be more of a traditionalist when it comes to short stories, but these really hooked me. They're unique and different and well-written and memorable, and they deserve to be read.

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