cover image Back Talk

Back Talk

Danielle Lazarin. Penguin, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-14-313147-2

Lazarin’s exceptional debut collection digs deep into the lives of women, telling complex stories of loss, hope, and joy. In “Hide and Seek,” a young mother aims to give her two daughters a happy childhood by moving them to the suburbs, only to discover the dangers that stretch into their new neighborhood. “Lovers’ Lookout” concerns a newly single woman in San Francisco, who meets a man while out on a run and toys with the idea of sleeping with him. “American Men in Paris I Did Not Love” takes a clever structure—each section focuses on one man who lusts after the story’s protagonist—to spin a tale detailing the strain of long-distance relationships. In “Floor Plans,” a friendship forms between two women as one tries to buy the other’s apartment, leading to a struggle for power. Equally effective are Lazarin’s narratives about adolescents. The title story, one of the collection’s shortest, powerfully conveys the experience of seeing a moment of youthful pleasure transform into a gossiped-about scarlet letter, while in “Gone,” two teens create a list of girls in their neighborhood who have died as they face their own struggles with boys and school. Lazarin’s work is confident and exhilarating; this auspicious collection is uniformly excellent. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Feb.)