cover image Transmutation: Stories

Transmutation: Stories

Alex DiFrancesco. Seven Stories, $16.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-64421-066-6

DiFrancesco’s sharp and sometimes fantastical collection (after the novel All City) depicts a series of challenges faced by outsiders. Junie, the young trans protagonist of “Inside My Saffron Cave” suffers the tyranny of her mother’s abusive boyfriend Chad, whose house they’ve just moved into. “The Ledger of the Deep” portrays a warmer familial relationship, but not one without problems. The complexity of Dad’s feelings is represented by his resistance to renaming Sara, his beloved boat, now that daughter Sara has become Sawyer. The collection’s title signals DiFrancesco’s often whimsical exploration of various types of change. In “The Disappearance,” an aging academic’s public screed against minority poets leads to his literal progressive vanishing. The boundless love of a vampire lies at the center of “The Pure,” while gypsies and a monster inhabit the eerie folkloric “The Wind, the Wind.” “The Chuck Berry Tape Massacre” is the longest and most ambitious story, with parallel woven narratives. One thread follows the descent into lunacy of single mother Kay and the abandonment of her two daughters; the other fancifully charts the obsessive quest of a music lover named Jack Tran. How these narratives connect is left to the reader to decide. Whether striking chords that are playful, poignant, or both at once, this collection consistently charms. (June)