cover image The Odditorium: Stories

The Odditorium: Stories

Melissa Pritchard. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-934137-37-6

Pritchard, author of Spirit Seizures%E2%80%94for which she won the Flannery O'Connor Award%E2%80%94certainly can't be accused of false advertising with her selected title for this collection of eight off-beat short stories that are likely to be an acquired taste. The order of the tales may work against her, as she starts with "Pelagia, Holy Fool," an account of a woman described as a "scoundrel-saint," who lived during the time of Tsar Alexander I, and who "flipped a convent full of pent-up, quarrelsome women on its head and put up with having her vile, unwashed feet kissed by a failing empire of wonder-struck pilgrims." That summary either grips, or doesn't, and for those in the latter category, much of the rest of the book is likely to be rough sledding. Only a handful, most notably, "Captain Brown and the Royal Victoria Hospital," the volume's standout, are traditionally-told stories; that entry, set in 1944 in a ghost-ridden southern England hospital designated to receive casualties after D-Day, is atmospheric, enigmatic, and moving. (Jan.)