cover image Tender: Stories

Tender: Stories

Sofia Samatar. Small Beer, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-1-61-873126-5

Samatar (The Winged Histories) collects 19 eerie short tales, all previously published, and a new novella, “Fallow,” all set in times and climes a few disquieting steps around the corner from reality. Her title story employs tender’s meaning of caregiver to comment darkly on the emotional fallout from the containment of radioactive waste. “Cities of Emerald, Cities of Gold” probes the “family deserts” of a half-American, half-Somali person in the context of Dorothy’s final acceptance of “dusty Kansas.” “Those” is a shattering look at interracial marriage and its consequences. Often using a tormented first-person storyteller persona from history or her contemporary experience, Sunatar blends luscious images with painful self-realization; occasionally the contrast between these two trademarks of her style causes complexity to lapse into incomprehensibility. The theme of this provocative collection, including the far-future dystopian vision of “Fallow,” is most clearly evident in “A Girl Who Comes Out of a Chamber at Regular Intervals,” a scalding too-near-future indictment of a culture rushing headlong to embrace the mixed contents of the Pandora’s box of communication technology. (Apr.)