Named a Fall Pick by Boston Globe, ELLE, Library Journal and MyDomain
An eerie debut collection featuring missing parents, unrequited love, and other uncomfortable moments
A man hangs from the ceiling of an art gallery. A woman spells out messages to her sister using her own hair. Children deemed “bad” are stolen from their homes. In Hardly Children, Laura Adamczyk’s rich and eccentric debut collection, familiar worlds—bars, hotel rooms, cities that could very well be our own—hum with uncanny dread.
The characters in Hardly Children are keyed up, on the verge, full of desire. They’re lost, they’re in love with someone they shouldn’t be, they’re denying uncomfortable truths using sex or humor. They are children waking up to the threats of adulthood, and adults living with childlike abandon.
With command, caution, and subtle terror, Adamczyk shapes a world where death and the possibility of loss always emerge. Yet the shape of this loss is never fully revealed. Instead, it looms in the periphery of these stories, like an uncomfortable scene viewed out of the corner of one’s eye.
Adamczyk's accomplished debut collection pulses with an underlying sense of menace. The short opener, "Wanted," has a quiet depth that moves it away from what is traditionally thought of as flash fiction. The narrator is obsessed with children and may (or may not) have crossed over into predatory and/or pedophilic behavior. "Danny Girl" feels authentic to the young title character with its jumpy structure and present tense prose. There is a dark undercurrent in Danny's family that Danny doesn't understand en route to a shocking ending. "Black Box" starts pleasantly enough, on Christmas morning, with a father proudly showing his adult children his "infinity box." The strange twists in the story follow the father's accelerating addiction to his device. "Gun Control" works various disquieting riffs on the theatrical maxim "if there's a gun in act one, fire it in act three." Surrealism pervades "Wine is Mostly Water," in which a man performs for an art exhibit by being hooked through his skin to a ceiling 30 feet in the air there's an affair and a psychological loss of identity, blurring with a physical loss of identity. Adamczyk never writes the same story twice, giving this collection a sleek and unnerving feel as readers know something bad is going to happen, but are uncertain of what it'll be.