From Publishers Weekly
Dorst's acclaimed debut, Alive in Necropolis, folded sci-fi, horror, and noir elements into a layered coming-of-age story, and a similar mix of lively imagination and love of craft are on display in this excellent collection. "Splitters" hilariously recreates a scholarly treatise, replete with bloated footnotes and period photographs, by a biologist unloading personal grudges upon colleagues. In the title story, dozens of short vignettes have the effect of snapshots or glimpses that the reader is challenged to piece together. A similar method is used, but to a grander effect, in "Twelve Portraits of Dr. Gauchet," which borrows its title from a Van Gogh painting and depicts the life of the famous artist's physician. The narrative in the poignant and surprisingly suspenseful "Dinaburg's Cake" coils in the obsessive mind of its protagonist, a cake maker in pursuit of a lost client with whom she imagines a significant connection. Whether it's the campaign adviser shackled to a loser in "The Candidate in Bloom" or the hapless dreamers in "Vikings" and "What Is Mine Will Know My Face," the humanity in Dorst's characters can break a reader's heart.
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Dorst (Alive in Necropolis, 2008) consistently finds the sweet spot between humor and pathos in this well-crafted and compulsively readable collection of 12 short stories. Whether it’s the wildly successful surfer tycoon who surveys the Pacific from his redwood deck or the hopelessly hungover house sitter who has badly bungled the tests that will allow her to hit the open road in a semitrailer truck, Dorst’s characters all share a deep yearning for a different, better life. In the nerve-jangling “Dinaburg’s Cake,” an expert cake-maker in Austin, Texas, loses the bid to make a wedding cake. Her obsessive quest to sample the winning cake brings her unexpected but welcome insight into “her depressed and mangy daughter, whom she loved more than anything.” In “Vikings,” two childhood friends drift into a small desert town, where they end up taking care of an abandoned baby. Their touching if ridiculous dream of “becoming a family” hits the skids as soon as the beer runs out. Recommend this imaginative and compelling collection to fans of Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (2009). --Joanne Wilkinson