This is the highly anticipated short story collection by the author of the viral short story, “Cat Person” that was published in The New Yorker December 2017 during the cusp of the #MeToo revelations. We’ve all been waiting to see if that story was a fluke, wherein the author was somehow able to catch the moment of female anger at male privilege and bad behavior, or if this author really had a way of consistently capturing fireflies in a jar.
If I told you her short stories were about divorced moms and Peace Corps teachers in a foreign land, it would sounds like a boring collection of pretentious literary MFA stories, but there’s a dark underbelly to all of Roupenian’s stories–much like the dark underbelly of America that has been exposed in this recent election–and it gives a powerful pull to everything she writes.
At a recent interview in New York, she mentioned that Stephen King was one of her greatest influences, as well as Shirley Jackson, and you can really feel the darkness around the edges (and sometimes right in the middle) of these stories that are written in a surprisingly colloquial style that then surprises you with its bite.
The story that stayed with me the longest was “Bad Boy,” the opener, which starts as a weird threesome and devolves into something very different. “The Good Guy” is right up there with “Cat Person” as a contemporary dating cautionary tale that will leave a resonance long after you’ve finished reading it.
Roupenian is not a female Stephen King or a contemporary Shirley Jackson. I think her work reminds most of the early dark and powerful stories of Joyce Carol Oates.
Reviewed by Lori Perkins
Published by Scout Press, January 15, 2019