A thief steals the air from a room. Children invent a nursery rhyme to make sense of their fate, and a band of girls rots from the outside in. These characters stumble through joy and murder and confusion, only to survive and wait for the next catastrophe to arrive. Moments so brief and disturbing you can't afford to look away. Jac Jamc's affecting stories mine the territory between what is real and what it means to create understanding.
Jemc follows her debut novel, My Only Wife, with a collection of short stories of loss and heartache. Many of the vignettes span only a few pages; they're less stories than moments in time, with characters frozen in moments of nostalgia. In "The Dark Spot," a woman has returned home to visit her family and ponders an old Halloween mask she finds in the basement. In "Unaccounted," a man is stuck in the moment he realizes his relationship is over, regretting the loss while knowing he's better off without it. Jemc also provides some longer works in which her characters have more room to grow. In "Bent Back," a young girl is reluctant to wear her back brace, not convinced her scoliosis is a problem that requires fixing. In "The Tackiness of Souls," a young woman flirts with a colleague while battling a pessimism that no one else might share her clever worldview. Jemc's stories are, on the whole, somber, her characters dispirited and constrained by a world unable to understand them. It is the prose in the playful and poetic approach to language and form that gives these stories light.