cover image Awayland


Ramona Ausubel. Riverhead, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-59463-490-1

Everyday worries about pregnancy, mortality, and parents are given fantastical treatment in these playful stories by Ausubel (Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty). A cyclops builds an online dating profile, a chef joins a journey to Mars, Egyptian animal mummies thank the museum that displays them, and, in “Remedy,” a dying man arranges to have one of his hands grafted onto his true love. There’s an emphasis on eccentrics—as in “Template For a Proclamation to Save the Species,” in which the mayor of a small Minnesota town declares Lenin’s birthday a holiday devoted to sexual procreation—and a distinct predilection for the unexpected: stories feature dissipating mothers, an African menagerie, and a fixer-upper of a house at the juncture between heaven and hell. Ausubel clearly enjoys using the outlandish or mythical to underscore her characters’ predicaments, but sometimes the quirkiness grows tiresome and the air tends to go out of her stories once they have exhausted their magical-realist premises. Still, Ausubel’s best stories have an affecting vulnerability; fans of Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and Miranda July will want to give this a look. (Mar.)