The stories in My Haunted Home by Victoria Hood delve in startling ways into the lives of the obsessed, the grieving, and the truly haunted. Winner of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, Hood conjures a shifting range of narrators through an unstable range of worlds where mothers might be dead, girls compulsively shove peanuts inside their ears, agoraphobia traps people inside their houses, and cats won’t eat your soup. In “The Teeth, the Way I Smile,” a daughter who looks like her dead mother manifests grief both in her house and her body. In “Smelly Smelly,” a woman slowly comes to realize her boyfriend has been dead for weeks. In “You, Your Fault,” Hood explores the unfolding love of two women who love every part of each other—including the parts that fixate on arson and murder. In this debut story collection, Hood probes the worlds of what can be haunted, unpacking the ways in which hauntings can be manifested in physical forms, mentally harvested and lived through, and even a change in what is haunting.
Benefit Street by Adria Bernardi is set in an unnamed provincial capital of an unnamed country and tells of a wide circle of friends—teachers, lawyers, missionaries, doctors, artisans—in a time of gathering and dispersal. It tells the story of mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, colleagues, and neighbors, as war to the East threatens and constitutional rights are daily eroded by an increasingly authoritarian regime. The ideals of youth, freedom, and coexistence are severely tested with the shocking revelation that the charismatic leader of their group has sexually abused the women under his care. The limits of reconciliation are tested as Şiva makes an arduous journey into the mountains to meet an estranged mother with a genius for weaving complex rugs.
Shame by Grant Maierhofer is a daring exploration of the potential and limits of memory and self. Here we meet the author at various points within his life then, now, and in the future, as he investigates the sense of shame that haunts the course of his days. The real and unreal, fact and fiction, blur together in a Kaufmanesque sequence of overlapping narratives about who we really are, how we cope with regret, and the repetitions of our behavior. Through lists, fragments, recollections, and rants, the story of a son’s vexing grief for his father emerges. A sober addict trying to figure out how to navigate pleasure, diversion, and escape. A father trying to figure out marriage, children, maturity, and responsibility. A confused observer in a world constantly torn apart by media, politics, and aggression. A meditation on the nature of art, and art’s place in contemporary life.
Ascension Fiction by Steve Tomasula University of Alabama Press/FC2, August 2022
Ascension by Steve Tomasula is a novel about the end of nature, or rather, the end of three “natures”: the time just before Darwin changed the natural world; the 1980s, just as the digital and genetic revolutions begin to replace “nature” with “environment”; and today, a time when we have the ability to manipulate nature at both the scale of the planet and at the genome. The narrative follows three different biologists on the brink of each of these cultural extinctions to explore how nature occupies our imaginations and how our imaginations bring the natural world, and our place in it, into existence.