Martin (The Ghost of Mary Celeste) assembles the stories in this collection from declarative, unfurnished sentences that have the stocky feel of a translated text. It's a style that lends itself well to the spare, domestic situations—a cat stuck in a salmon can, dinner party insults, relationship jealousy—that she fixates on and then abruptly breaks from, ending stories in an open parabola. Martin even takes matters a step further, embellishing her quotidian situations with gothic detail. This title story, which is about mermaids, sits directly next to a story of marital unrest, in which a husband and wife idly discuss a gym membership; other stories combine the grotesque with the domestic, as in "The Consolation of Nature," a story about a family that becomes obsessed with killing a rat. Martin's characters, always self-aware but rarely empowered, begin and end most stories either feeling inferior or unsatisfied in a relationship, with sex acting merely as a dulling agent of mollification. Dramatic resolution isn't the point of this collection, to devastating effect—quite literally in "The Unfinished Novel," perhaps the most affecting story, in which a man comes into contact with his ex-girlfriend and her unfinished manuscript of 20 years. This collection is rife with the unspoken cracks between people, and leaves a haunting, lingering impression. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/20/2015 Release date: 08/18/2015 Genre: Fiction
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