Monday, April 21, 2014

Incendiary Girls : A What She Read Review

Do get yourself a copy and then pass it around:
you won't be disappointed!
Find it at your local bookseller,
via this Amazon link (sample the stories there too)
or via this Indiebound link.
Let me begin by telling you that I've already recommended Incendiary Girls to friends who appreciate the particular gratification of reading a beautifully wrought short story, and that I have two in the queue to borrow my copy, if and when I choose to part with it.

And for those of you who favor a healthy dose of magic with your realism - as I do - Kodi Scheer's first collection is a must-read.

It's been a swell month for the contemporary American short story at my house, as my Dave and I listened to George Saunders read his collection Tenth of December late in March, then I picked up Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove from our amazing "little library" branch's "Happy Go Lucky" shelf (all current best-selling or critically acclaimed paperbacks, two week loans, no holds, no renewals - just happy book luck), and then Incendiary Girls rose to the top of my TBR-for-book-tours pile.

Truth:  Kodi Scheer's stories stand up easily to the works of her two oft-lauded, more experienced, and certainly better-known contemporaries.  In fact, I thought that Incendiary Girls compared favorably to Russell's latest.  Why?  Scheer offers readers equally intriguing and imaginative premises but with consistent depth of character and humor to balance sometimes bleak scenarios. Russell, not so much, on both counts.

Specifics, you say?  Scheer writes in the tradition of contemporary magical realists:  we enter the entirely ordinary worlds of everyday people and occasionally "magical" occurrences simply slip in.  Protagonists generally accept such unusual events - a divorced doctor-mom suspects that her own mother has been  reincarnated into her daughter's horse ("Fundamental Laws of Nature") or a National Guardsman's obsessive-compulsive wife discovers his ear in their laundry hamper while he is still serving in the Gulf ("No Monsters Here") - and react to them as they would any more "realistic" unusual event. We readers stay closely aligned with these protagonists, and - exhibiting an artistic restraint that does this young author great credit - neither we nor they spend much time pondering why such events happen or even what they might mean symbolically.  Instead, we readers receive the gift of pondering for ourselves how the "magical" elements and characters' responses  resonate thematically and symbolically.  I love this sort of stuff, and detest writers who insist on over-explaining, so Scheer's work engaged me completely.

Eleven stories total offer diverse themes and levels of intensity; Ms. Scheer's fictional territory most- times includes anatomical and/or medical details that might be daunting for some readers, and she certainly doesn't shy away from the darker side of human nature, but - as I noted earlier - she nearly always balances intensity with lightness.  I'd especially recommend these stories to fans of Margaret Atwood's and Francine Prose's earlier magical-realistic collections, and to those who remember fondly Richard Selzer's work and the fictions or personal essays of other doctor-writers.

Two thumbs up from me for this new collection, with gratitude to the folks at TLC Book Tours for alerting me to the promise of Incendiary Girls.  Use the TLC link to sample other book lovers' responses to Incendiary Girls.

You can bet I'll be on the lookout for Kodi Scheer's future work as well.



Anonymous said...

I love it when I find a book that I know my friends will love and I end up with a list of people who want to borrow it!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

LBC said...

I really liked this one as well. This is a great review, and discussion of magical realism. I would love to read a Kodi Scheer novel.

Laurie said...

Glad that you found Incendiary Girls as worthy as I did, and good to "see" you here!

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