cover image Man and Wife

Man and Wife

Katie Chase. A Strange Object, $14.95 trade paper (212p) ISBN 978-0-9892759-8-9

Chase’s eight stories have conventional, relaxed surfaces, but simmer with subversive twists. “The Hut” begins, “My mother thought the best way to teach me to be a woman was to teach me to be alone.” What follows is the main character’s forced confinement in a cabin, depicted with palpable urgency. “Refugees” seems set near the present, but centers on victims of the housing bubble who live in a camp straight out of Steinbeck. Once the reader is attuned to Chase’s unique brand of mischief, the opening line of the title story rightly sets off alarm bells: “They say every girl remembers that special day when everything starts to change.” Here, nine-year-old Mary Ellen is excitedly informed by her father that he has secured her marriage to family friend Mr. Middleton, “that nice man with the moustache.” Throughout these stories, an unusual lens is used on modern American life, giving them an edge of social commentary, and the collection as a whole an appealing unity. But Chase’s high concepts occasionally overwhelm her storytelling, making stretches of prose one-dimensional. Still, this is a consistently provocative debut collection. (May)