A National Indie Bestseller
A Best Book of the Year at The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, Houston Chronicle, Roxane Gay’s The Audacity, Mashable, Polygon, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal
Winner of The Story Prize
A Finalist for The National Book Critics Circle Award
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
“Uncanny and haunting . . . Genius.” —Michele Filgate, The Washington Post
“Dazzling.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
What happens when fantasy tears the screen of the everyday to wake us up? Could that waking be our end?
In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. A woman lives in a house with all her ex-boyfriends. A toxic friendship grows up around a drug that makes you invisible. An ancient ritual might heal you of anything—if you bury yourself alive.
These and other scenarios investigate the ways that the outlandish and the ordinary are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly alike.
Ma (Severance) examines themes of otherness and disconnection in this fantastical and often brilliant collection. In "Tomorrow," an arm protrudes from a woman's vagina during her pregnancy, which her doctor says is "not ideal" but "relatively safe," his cursory advice gleaned from a website that "looks like WebMD." The mother, like many of the book's protagonists, emigrated from China to the U.S. as a child; later in the story, she returns to visit her great-aunt, with whom she communicates primarily through a translation app. In "Returning," a woman travels with her husband to his native country, the fictional Garboza, only to be abandoned by him at the airport. The protagonist, who wrote a novel about a couple who "during an economic depression, decide to cryogenically freeze themselves," experiences ambivalence about her marriage. These stories, and the elliptical "Office Hours" (about a young woman's semi-romance with her film professor, who has a Narnia-like magical wardrobe in his office), are enchanting, full of intelligence, dry humor, and an appealing self-awareness. On the other hand, a couple of entries—such as "Los Angeles," about a woman living with 100 of her ex-boyfriends—don't quite manifest into something more than their conceit. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency.