With bravura storytelling, daring imagination, and fierce narrative control, this dazzling debut introduces that rare writer who finds humanity in our most unconventional behavior, and the humor beneath our darkest impulses.
In these ten strange, funny, and unnerving stories, animals become the litmus test of our deepest fears and longings. In the title story, an elephant keeper courts danger from his gentle charge; in “Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus,” a headstrong young woman in Africa is lured by the freedom of the monkeys in the trees; in “Talk Turkey,” a boy has secret conversations with the turkeys on his friend’s family’s farm; in “Slim’s Last Ride,” a child plays chilling games with his pet rabbit; in “Gallus Gallus,” a pompous husband projects his anger at his wife onto her prized rooster.
This fresh, inventive debut will introduce Hannah Tinti as one of the most gifted writers of her generation. Enter her world at your own risk, and you will come away bewitched.
Animals play the starring roles in Tinti's striking debut collection. In 11 highly original, sometimes gorgeous stories, they are freighted with the symbolic significance of all that is peculiar, cruel and loving in their human counterparts. "Big animals are like big problems," says the title story's zookeeper, but more often, it's people and their complex relationships to themselves and one another that cause the problems. In "Preservation," a young painter charged with restoring murals in a natural history museum's dioramas is haunted by the impending death of her artist father in the form of a stuffed black bear come to life. A woman mourns the loss of her lover while caring for his pet boa constrictor in "How to Revitalize the Snake in Your Life." Tinti's weaker stories "Gallus, Gallus" and "Hit Man of the Year" read more like parables and lack the psychological realism that makes her wildest notions work so brilliantly. At its best, Tinti's suburban gothic recalls Joy Williams, where violence is domesticated though no less horrifying: a mother commits murder and covers the body with breakfast cereal in "Home Sweet Home," while in "Bloodworks," a father with his own history of cruelty to animals discovers a dead kitten in his son's closet and worries that there is "something in the family blood." A redeeming generosity underlies the harsher realities in these stories, and it is to Tinti's credit that her zookeepers and pet owners, as flawed as they are, are as sympathetic as her wise giraffes and gentle bunnies.
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A great collection of unsettling stories.