ONE OF TIME'S 10 BEST FICTION BOOKS OF 2020. Longlisted for the Joyce Carol Oates Prize. Named a Best Book of 2020 by NPR, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, the New York Public Library, Library Journal, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, and Tor.com
"As enchanting as fairy tales, as mysterious as dreams, these exquisitely composed fictions are as urgent and original as any being written today.” —Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend, winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction
One of Entertainment Weekly's 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2020 and 30 Hottest Summer Reads, one of O, the Oprah Magazine's 30 Most Anticipated Books of 2020, one of BuzzFeed's Most Anticipated Books of 2020 and 29 Summer Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down, one of Esquire's 20 Must-Read Books of Summer 2020, one of the BBC's Ten Books to Read in 2020, one of TIME's 12 New Books to Read in July one of ELLE's 30 Most Anticipated New Books of Summer 2020, one of Refinery29's 25 Books You'll Want to Read This Summer, one of Time's 45 New Books You Need to Read This Summer, one of Thrillist's 21 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020, one of Bustle's Most Anticipated Books of July 2020, one of LitHub's 2020 Summer Books, and one of The Millions Most Anticipated Books of the First Half of 2020
An urgent and unsettling collection of women on the verge from Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Laura van den Berg’s first story collection since her prizewinning book The Isle of Youth, draws readers into a world of wholly original, sideways ghost stories that linger in the mouth and the mind. Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg’s trademark spiky humor and surreal eye. Moving from the peculiarities of Florida to liminal spaces of travel in Mexico City, Sicily, and Iceland, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is uncannily attuned to our current moment, and to the fears we reveal to no one but ourselves.
In “Lizards,” a man mutes his wife’s anxieties by giving her a LaCroix-like seltzer laced with sedatives. In the title story, a woman poses as her more successful sister during a botched Italian holiday, a choice that brings about strange and destructive consequences, while in “Karolina,” a woman discovers her prickly ex-sister-in-law in the aftermath of an earthquake and is forced to face the truth about her violent brother.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too closely. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.
In van den Berg's startling, precise collection (after The Third Hotel), a series of women are haunted by various disturbances, often in Florida. "Last Night" sets the tone with an unnamed narrator spooked by the sudden closure of the bar downstairs from her apartment, causing her to look back on her would-be suicide many years earlier, when, as a teenager, she spent 10 months at a lax Florida psychiatric treatment facility for her suicidal ideation. "Slumberland" follows a woman's aimless walks outside Orlando, Fla., during which she photographs the transient residents of a seedy motel while reflecting on her own state of impermanence. In "Lizards," a woman is outraged by news reports of a judge's alleged sexual assaults. Her husband, skeptical and fatigued by her talking, pacifies her with a sedative-laced seltzer he finds online. "Your Second Wife" follows a woman thrust into the desperation of the gig economy who becomes a "grief freelancer," playing the roles of widowers' dead wives. In the title story, the collection's thematic climax, a woman poses as her more successful sister; her actions inform the various ways that the women in van den Berg's stories often succumb to self-erasure or are erased by others. Van den Berg maintains an unsettling tone throughout these darkly imagined tales. This collection shows the author at her best.