cover image The Wrong Heaven

The Wrong Heaven

Amy Bonnaffons. Little, Brown, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-51621-1

In the stories of her imaginative and unsettling debut, Bonnaffons creates worlds much like ours, except for the parts that are askew. Sometimes noticeably askew, as in the title story, which features Jesus and Mary lawn statues that talk (and judge); sometimes almost unnoticeably, as in “The Cleas,” a tale of babysitting—and the deeply problematic relationships between men and women—told by a recent college grad. Except for the excellent “Doris and Katie,” about two old friends coming to terms with sex and death, the stories feature youngish women trying to figure out what they can legitimately expect from men, the world, and themselves. In the longest and strongest story, “Horse,” Bonnaffons imagines a world where women—only women—can become horses through injections; the story’s narrator injects herself with the horse hormones at the same time her best friend is injecting herself with hormones to help her get pregnant. Some feature magical realism—“Black Stones,” “Little Sister,” and “A Room to Live In”—but when Bonnaffons hits the sweet spot between the emotional and physical realities of this world and the odd, askew thing that lets readers see them, the collection is at its best. This is an outstanding, exciting debut. (July)