cover image Fifty Beasts to Break Your Heart: And Other Stories

Fifty Beasts to Break Your Heart: And Other Stories

GennaRose Nethercott. Vintage, $17 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-31418-0

Nethercott (Thistlefoot) collects 14 delectable dark fairy tales which tend to start in worlds that feel almost comfortable—until the shadows thicken and all at once everything has teeth. Some of the beastly creatures featured here are literal monsters, as in the title tale, which is presented as a bestiary (with splendid illustrations by Bobby DiTrani) assembled by three florists who create strange bouquets of creatures. Others are much more human, like the sixth graders in “A Diviner’s Abecedarian.” Girls playing fortune-telling games in the schoolyard and during sleepovers is a familiar motif—but what if they could tell exactly how the new girl in class would die? Nethercott’s supremely confident prose assists—and indeed demands—the suspension of disbelief; of course a woman can become a house, if she wishes (“Homebody”). Naturally, water might leap from lakes and bottles and clouds to drown a girl where she stands (“Drowning Lessons”). And why shouldn’t a reality-bending, mind-shattering staircase also be a slightly tacky local tourist attraction (“Sundown at the Eternal Staircase”)? That’s simply how the world is. By the end of this grimly fantastic collection, readers will have bought in entirely. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Feb.)