Centered in the depressed flatlands of eastern England, the stories in Johnson’s debut collection straddle the drama of transformation in both the uncanny and the everyday. “A Bruise in the Shape of a Door Handle” describes a woman’s house falling in love with her girlfriend. So affectionate is the house that it consumes her arm “to the elbow in something that once was wall and now was loose, flabby.” In “Starver,” a girl is transfigured into a fish. Ignoring her mother’s protestations, her sister must set her free in the water once gills begin “shuttering on the side of her neck.” These imaginative depictions of entrapment and escape pair well with more ordinary stories. In “The Scattering,” a 15-year-old named Matilda falls in with her older brother’s friends. “In a town where there was nothing to do,” Johnson writes of the group, “they did well at nothing.” Their gatherings around an impromptu skate park built into a “copse of thin trees,” follow a familiar teenage arc, but Johnson manages to make these scenes as thrillingly direct as any of the supernatural fare that precedes them. “She thought there must be times you caught yourself learning,” Johnson writes of Matilda, as she becomes accepted by the group: rather than going from girl to fish, she is conquering the equally daunting task of going from girl to woman. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/13/2017 Release date: 05/02/2017 Genre: Fiction
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