Prepare Her: Stories

Genevieve Plunkett. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64622-040-3

Plunkett’s striking debut puts a series of women’s interior lives in stark relief. In “Something for a Young Woman,” teenager Allison confides in the owner of the antique store where she works about her boyfriend’s shortcomings, while sensing that the owner finds her attractive. He gives her a necklace, which she doesn’t wear until many years later. First, she marries the boyfriend and has a child: “these decisions—the birth, the wedding—as well as others, were made with the earnestness of dogs wanting to be good,” Allison reflects. The protagonist in “Single” longingly thinks about what it would be like to live by herself, but instead marries her childhood friend. During their honeymoon at a rundown retreat, the young newlyweds explore ideas they’d never said aloud, but it’s not enough to keep them together. “Rodeo” depicts an audience witnessing the unexpected death of a horse in Vermont as April worries how her son will be affected while brooding about her husband. “He was like a well-made box,” April thinks after snooping through his belongings and failing to find evidence to explain her feeling of unease about him, “with a clearly defined purpose—on the outside, at least.” Plunkett’s keen observations will pique readers, and the stories pay off with dividends. Agent: Reiko Davis, DeFiore & Co. (July)