cover image Stripping + Other Stories

Stripping + Other Stories

Pagan Kennedy. Serpent's Tail, $10.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-322-3

In this impressive first collection, Kennedy presents a series of quirky but likable girls and women. They are tomboys and daredevils, women who almost get the upper hand with the people (especially men) around them, only to quickly lose hold. A girl at camp submits to others' attempts to make her over, goes to a dance, and ends up with a boy who describes himself as ``socially retarded.'' A 70-year-old woman meets her cousin for the first time in years, in the hopes he too will recall the day, 57 years ago, when his older brother raped her. The common thread all Kennedy's female characters share is their desire to be good girls, to do as their mothers would wish them to. One seven-year-old narrator goes so far in her efforts to please others that she submits to phone sex with an anonymous caller. ``Her mother gave her real pills, too: purple ones for going to sleep; a yellow one to ease her through the first day of third grade; a white one when she got too excited about riding the bumper cars at Playland,'' another protagonist recounts. Deftly detailing their gestures and physical transformations, Kennedy ensures that her characters' turmoils will seem hauntingly familiar to readers. (Feb.)