cover image The Wilds

The Wilds

Julia Elliott. Tin House (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (376p) ISBN 978-1-935639-92-3

The debut collection from Pushcart Prize–winning Elliott is a brilliant combination of emotion and grime, wit and horror. The title story is a coming-of-age tale—tree houses, pimples, puberty, and young romance—that eschews convention with just a dash of lycanthropy. In the strong “Jaws,” an adult woman vacations in Orlando with her elderly parents, only to realize as the days click by, how demented her mother has become. Bizarre health resorts populate both “Regeneration at Mukti” and “Caveman Diet.” In the former, participants scab over and shed skin as a way of rejuvenation; while the latter takes the Paleo diet craze to extremes, as men and women don loincloths and learn the ways of prehistoric barbarians in an attempt to lose weight. The ideas of revival and survival appear throughout the collection: “LIMBs” features robotic technology that allows the elderly to walk; “The End of the World” finds a has-been band trying to regroup for one final cash-in; and “Rapture” uses its title’s literal and Biblical definitions to expand the worldviews of two middle-class girls. Elliott’s gift of vernacular is remarkable, and her dark, modern spin on Southern Gothic creates tales that surprise, shock, and sharply depict vice and virtue. (Oct.)