cover image Kiss Me Someone

Kiss Me Someone

Karen Shepard. Tin House (Norton, dist.), $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-941040-75-1

This concise, disturbing collection by Shepard (The Celestials) covers several decades of the author’s work, often focusing on troubling experiences of women in the northeastern United States. Many of the protagonists are seen as “exotic” because of their races (as in “Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When”) and are ambivalent about their backgrounds. Most of the stories, with their slow-burning openings, rely more on telling detail than on plot. “Jerks” is a litany by the narrator of nasty men whose sexual advances she has accepted. “Girls Only” zooms in on a group of cynical bridesmaids, who, it’s gradually revealed, once allowed the bride to be sexually assaulted without helping her. Two stories are told in the collective voice—in “Popular Girls,” it’s a group of New York private school 10th-graders, and in “The Mothers” it’s a passel of suburban moms of high school basketball players—while other stories are from the points of view of the outsiders these hive minds cast out. The final, wrenching story, “Rescue,” about an accidental death and a dog, widens the world of a brief story out to include an entire community, and is as compassionate as it is horrifying. This is a sharp and memorable collection. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)