Disturbing, disjointed memories dominate Collins’s new collection comprising 38 stories. Many, only a page or so long, would bear the classification “flash fiction.” These are short on action and long on imagery, like literary snapshots: sisters suffer odd hygiene practices at the hands of their parents (“The Daughters”); a bookseller has an emotional reaction to the death of Charles Bukowski in “He Died”: “His enormous, purple-veined nose was gone, decomposing.” A logger has an epiphany about the ethics of his job (“Zeus. Zeus?”). Many of the longer stories begin like flash fiction but evolve. “Look Up. Look Up” starts with Mandy’s mammogram triggering memories of her dead mother in the hours running up to a date. Much of the appeal of Collins’s (Echolocation) fiction comes from the idiosyncratic way that the longer stories unfold, their lurch from subject to subject challenging convention, but possessing an inner logic that conforms to character. Typically, initially disjointed subjects dovetail to resonant climaxes. “Freak Magnet” begins with giddy lovers Rene and Marnie checking into a shabby motel, but shifts to a rumination on a lost father, prompting Marnie to write Rene a series of postcards, as the couple’s trip takes a strange turn. These vivid, sometimes memorable tales do not necessarily benefit from being collected. (Feb.)
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