Storiesby Leni Zumas
A brilliantly stylish and unique debut story collection about the unseen corners of American life.
In this dazzling premier collection, Leni Zumas shines a bright light into the far corners of a dark, dreamlike America populated by a cast of characters on the brink of survival. With the Gothic style of Flannery O’Connor, the urgent lyricism of Jayne Anne Phillips, and the quirky humor of Sam Lipsyte and George Saunders, Zumas blends a lyrical, poetic voice with remarkably original storytelling.
A teenage boy finds his blind mother making a pass at his new best friend; a lonely woman works in a pillow factory by day and at night tends to a menagerie of sick animals; an aspiring witch is disillusioned by her spiritual shortcomings; a girl from a town so small it doesn’t exist on any map runs away with a rock band, all the while attempting to chart her way back home. The odds stacked against them, these lovingly rendered outsiders find connectedness and redemption in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Zumas so skillfully intertwines the utterly fantastic with the absolutely believable that the reader has no choice but to follow in fascination and wonder. Even the most surreal and ethereal moments take on a surprising familiarity, and the bleakest moments are imbued with unexpected hope. To become engrossed in Zumas’s world is a strange and beautiful delight.
We live with the lights off in a rot-walled house. In our yard the dogs wait and a tree drops plums. I stand with a basket. Enough catch and Black will make plum salad, plum pie. All summer we chew sugar till our teeth sting. In the winter we eat from jars, cold runny fruit, and the radio plays in the dark.
Too pretty for the looking, says Black about Blue.
Too fat for the fucking, says Blue about Black.
I watch Black peel fruit so fast the colors smear. Purple skin, yellow meat, silver knife: his fingers know where to go. He’s gotten fat, our Black-thighs shuddering, belly enormous. Blue calls him Pudding and whispers to me: I’d love to fuck a man who doesn’t wobble. She can’t see me blush or the tears that end in my mouth.
Too smart for the schooling, says Blue about me. She says I don’t need much more.