cover image Night Beast

Night Beast

Ruth Joffre. Black Cat, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2808-9

Most of the 11 stories in Joffre’s captivating debut conclude with haunting epiphanies that crystallize the emotions their characters have been grappling with throughout their telling. In “Go West, and Grow Up,” an impoverished mother and daughter who have been living out of their car for a year appear finally to escape the desperation of their lives, only to have their car stall out on the road miles from help. “Safekeeping” tells of a woman locked away in a bunker who finally rationalizes her imprisonment as an act of affection from the absent lover who placed her there. In “The Twilight Hotel,” a woman struggling to cope with an emotionally devastating miscarriage discovers that her increasingly estranged wife does not share her preferred escape fantasy. Joffre’s characters range from everyday moms negotiating the crankiness of their kids to people imprinted with digital clocks that tick down to the time they’ll meet their soulmate and, in the title story, a bride who has sex with her husband’s sister during her sleepwalking spells. They all experience love and loss in a collection that amounts to a cri de coeur for sympathy and understanding. This is an auspicious debut. Agent: Ross Harris, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. (May)