Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: "Goodnight, Beautiful Women" by Anna Noyes

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for making it available.

It's amazing how much power a short story can have, how much emotion and plot and imagery and detail can be packed into a finite number of pages. It's one of the things I love so much about short stories—while, obviously, I love reading novels, and have been absolutely dazzled and bowled over by many books I've read, I've had similar reactions to short stories as well. It's so gratifying to see the short form is still so popular, and that there are so many incredibly talented writers out there doing wonders with short stories.

Add Anna Noyes to that list. Goodnight, Beautiful Women, Noyes' soon-to-be-published collection of stories, contains some absolute stunners. As you might imagine, each of the 11 stories are about a woman (or women) or girl experiencing anguish, crisis, or uncertainty (sometimes more than one). How they choose to confront these turning points—or avoid them—provides moments of turmoil, transformation, or, in some cases, great strength.

While not every story in the collection worked for me, most of these stories moved and amazed me. Some of my favorites included: "Hibernation," in which a woman struggles with the emotional breakdown and apparent suicide of her troubled husband; "Safe as Houses," which followed a teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood as a sexual assault happens nearby her home; "This Is Who She Was," a story about the brief yet impactful relationship between a young woman and her boyfriend's mother; "Werewolf," in which a woman wracked with guilt about a lie she told as a child does penance by spending each weekend with her intellectually challenged cousin; and the title story, which follows a young woman on a road trip with her mother and stepfather, when she is surprised by a revelation from her mother.

These stories are at times funny, sad, thought-provoking, troubling, even sexy. Noyes has a true gift with language and imagery, and she really gets you invested in her characters within a few short pages. I love finding new, talented short story writers, and I look forward to seeing what is next in Noyes' career. She's definitely a writer I expect to hear more from in the future.

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