cover image Catapult


Emily Fridlund. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-946448-05-7

Fridlund (History of Wolves) centers her sharp and startling collection around characters who face acute but everyday struggles in relationships that feel stifling and realistic. In the title story, a teenage girl and her Christian boyfriend become fixated on researching time travel while his parents erroneously assume they are sexually active. In “Marco Polo,” a wife’s irregular sleeping pattern gnaws at her husband’s trust despite all signs that her late-night activities are innocuous. “Gimme Shelter” touches on pivotal moments of three siblings’ upbringing, carefully building to the regrets that haunt them as adults. Like many of Fridlund’s couples, the protagonists of “Old House” don’t realize they are in the tail end of their relationship; they gleefully mock their aging landlady’s sincere Swedenborgian theology of love, with no awareness that their own intense but hollow infatuation will soon be over. Fridlund’s ability to conjure humor in the darkest moments is clear in her blending of sitcom set-ups with bleak undercurrents. Her breathtaking prose and sly expressions make for compulsive reading. (Oct.)