A lush, glittering short story collection exploring female obsession and desire by an award-winning author Roxane Gay calls "a consummate storyteller."
From Kentucky to the California desert, these forty-two short stories -- ranging from the 80's and 90's to present day -- expose the hearts of girls and women in moments of obsessive desire and fantasy, wildness and bad behavior, brokenness and fearlessness, and more.
On a hot July night, teenage girls sneak out of the house to meet their boyfriends by the train tracks. Members of a cult form an unsettling chorus as they proclaim their adoration for the same man. A woman luxuriates in a fantasy getaway to escape her past. A love story begins over cabbages in a grocery store, and a laundress's life is consumed by her obsession with a baseball star. After the death of a sister, two high school friends kiss all night and binge-watch Winona Ryder movies.
Leesa Cross-Smith's sensuous stories -- some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and emails -- drench readers in nostalgia for summer nights and sultry days. They recall the intense friendships of teenage girls and the innate bonds between mothers, the first heady rush of desire, and the pure exhilaration of womanhood, all while holding up the wild souls of women so they can catch the light.
Cross-Smith's rich collection (after Whiskey & Ribbons) follows women exploring desire, desperation, and despair. The brief opener, "We, Moons," an explosion of slam cadence ("We're okay, our hearts, dusted with pink"), serves as a battle hymn of self-determination and sisterhood that thematically unites the subsequent narratives. "Teenage Dream Time Machine" unfolds as a texting conversation between two mothers worried about their young, wild daughters and remembering their own impetuous youth. In "Pink Bubblegum and Flowers," a young woman crushes on one of the men rebuilding the deck on her parents' house and navigates a tense scene of toxic masculinity. In "California, Keep Us," a Kentucky couple, mourning the loss of their baby, retreats once a month for a weekend in California to assume different identities with one another and resolve not to "talk about death." The delightfully idiosyncratic prose ("She felt guilty about lusting over Clint. It was lazy, like cold French fries") distinguishes each of the narrator's points of view within common themes of love, friendship, sex, and loyalty. These stories showcase the wide range of Cross-Smith's talent.