Rutting Season

Mandeliene Smith. Scribner, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9270-8
In Smith’s unsettling debut, characters must confront the most basic, animal sides of themselves as they navigate crisis and tragedy, whether it is a husband’s sudden death, workplace tension, or a police face-off. In the title story, Carl’s boss Ray is constantly giving him a hard time, and one incident in front of Ray’s work crush may be the final straw. “The Someday Cat” and “You the Animal” make for an intriguing pair of stories—though they both center on the same climactic moment, they are told from two opposing viewpoints. In “The Someday Cat,” Janie’s siblings are being put up for adoption one by one, and so her mother brings home a kitten to placate the children who are left. In “You the Animal,” readers meet Jared, who’s about to be married and on the verge of quitting his job at the Department of Children and Families, which is where readers learn there’s something a little more sinister at play at Janie’s house. At their best, Smith’s characters skate the razor-thin line of brutality in a way that’s both chilling and compelling, although secondary characters too often come across as one-dimensional. Still, this collection proves Smith is an uncommonly talented writer with a particularly sharp eye for the serrated edge of human nature. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018
Release date: 02/12/2019
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68441-804-6
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