cover image Monsters in Appalachia

Monsters in Appalachia

Sheryl Monks. Vandalia (CDC, dist.), $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-943665-39-6

Monks knows her monsters, both literal and figurative. And she knows the territory of hills and hollers, where reality is sometimes heightened so sharply that it bleeds into myth. The 15 ferociously compressed stories in her collection sear their way into the reader’s brain with matter-of-fact horror. In just six pages, the opening story, “Burning Slag,” lets one grim, violent moment in the life of a troubled mother point to a future shimmering with brutal shocks. Monks (All the Girls in France) follows it up with the wrenching “Robbing Pillars,” a claustrophobic coal-mining tale with a touch of the supernatural. These stories sparkle with dark, extreme humor, such as “Nympho,” in which the relatively law-abiding son of Amway-dealing parents finds himself under the sway of a fellow middle schooler given to “throwing his lanky white arms into wild frog punches.” Others are naturalistic: a novel’s worth of family and community relationships are fitted into “Little Miss Bobcat.” And with the title story, the final one in the collection, Monks ventures deep into the realm of myth, for a satisfying vision of the intersection of the momentous and the everyday. (Nov.)