From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Budnitz (Flying Leap
; If I Told You Once
) creates her own hybrid brand of stark, dystopian reality in this impressive collection, working an odd jumble of fantastical, historical and contemporary detail into stories that comment obliquely on the current state of human affairs. In "Where We Come From," a pregnant woman desperate to have her baby in America goes to great lengths to cross the border, waiting for years to give birth until her son "fills her completely, his arms fill her arms, his legs fill her legs." In "The Kindest Cut," the narrator discovers an old journal written by a surgeon during a war: blue and gray uniforms and a doctor's surgical techniques suggest the American Civil War, but the story takes a fantastical twist as the surgeon become obsessed with severed limbs. In the disturbing and seemingly futuristic world of "Sales," door-to-door salesmen are rounded up and kept in an unlocked pen from which they choose not to escape. Funny and sad at once, it's a kind of twisted love story in which a young woman's attempts to help are rejected: "The salesmen don't know that I am trying to help them, they yell at me that I'm ruining business, standing in the way of normal commerce. The customer is always right!
they scream." Budnitz's first-person narrators are pitch perfect, helping the reader to see from their perspectives, no matter how odd it might be. These bizarre and masterfully crafted stories will thrill readers of literary fiction who hunger for an innovative American voice.
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Budnitz's stark, sardonic short stories are structured like grim fairy tales and tilt toward the grotesque and the macabre. Author of A Flying Leap
(1998) and If I Told You Once
(1999), Budnitz, edgy and inventive, works in broad strokes to capture the trickle-down consequences of dictatorship, war, poverty, and environmental destruction. In "Sales," hapless traveling salesmen are penned like cattle while surfers in gas masks ride the waves of huge dust storms. In "Motherland," women and children live in limbo, forgotten by men at war. In "Saving Face," an artist is asked to refurbish the ubiquitous icon of a dictator. Budnitz is especially devastating in her more intimate tales, including the title story, in which a pregnant woman determined to cross the border to give birth to a "nice big American baby" carries her child far beyond term. At her best, Budnitz achieves the brilliant creepiness and frisson of Shirley Jackson; and in all her stories, her deadpan tone perfectly embodies the dehumanizing situations she so imaginatively and daringly dramatizes. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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