“Astonishing. . . . The stories are surreal, with the sharpest edge and in one way or another, each story reveals something raw and powerful about being human in a world where so little is in our control.” — Roxane Gay
A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world.
Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In “Girl on Girl,” a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can’t have in “Meteorologist Dave Santana.” And in the title story, a long fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. In Diane Cook’s perilous worlds, the quotidian surface conceals an unexpected surreality that illuminates different facets of our curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.
Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against each other for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched by a man who stalks them from their suburban yards. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves?
As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.
The characters in Cook's debut story collection inhabit isolated worlds, bubbles where scores of children are kidnapped and the police don't notice; where, in keeping with the sharp title story, lost fishermen wait for rescue after a pleasure trip goes awry; and where unwanted boys take to a deserted forest and live out a Lord of the Flies style tragedy. There's also an intense fear of the outside world lurking throughout. In "Flotsam," a woman considers installing an alarm system after random clothing regularly appears in her dryer. "Marrying Up" finds a woman constantly remarrying after her husbands are murdered by groups of riotous thugs occupying the outdoors. And "The Mast Year" chronicles the life of a young woman who, after a string of good fortune, becomes a talisman for the less privileged that arrive at her front door, hoping her luck will rub off. Quirkiness abounds, with several fairy-tale tropes thrown in for good measure ("A Wanted Man," concerning a lothario known for impregnating neighborhood women, even begins, "There once was a man..."). Some stories jump off the page, others falter, yet all are oddly charming.