The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell.
My Rating: 4/5
In this collection, Campbell has created a set of twisted fairytales. She looks at issues that affect our society, like has the myth of an everlasting perfect love story warped our minds? Why is disfigurement always associated with evil? Some of these stories I loved, and others not so much, but the overall reading experience was good.
Animals takes place in a magical realism world where heartbreak is fixed by having an actual heart transplant. Animal hearts and grown and ‘prepped’ to be placed in the heart of the one you love, creating an instant connection. It is very much a commentary on rape culture. Although the story was interesting, it was kind of stressful for me to read as a vegan/animal lover. This was a good story, but not for me.
Jacob was something of an antidote for the darkness of Animals and is written in the form of a letter from a young boy to a news anchor. We as adults understand the traumatic events he is describing in his letter, but see them through his innocent child eyes.
Plum Pie, Zombie Green, Yellow Bee, Purple Monster, children who are part-human and part-flower attend a summer camp every year, although the summer ends with a dreaded pruning, they put up with it because the can be together and they can be themselves, away from the prying eyes of society. This year, however, their friend Lily has failed to make an appearance…
In the Dark is a very short story is about a mute man who appears in a woman’s kitchen one night. It tells of their struggle to communicate, but despite being unable to talk they can still show each other kindness.
Margaret and Mary and the End of the WorldLittle Deaths is the story of a 28-year-old woman talking about her teen years, addressing anorexia, pregnancy, family, and faith.
Little Deaths. I really liked this idea of a world inhabited by ghosts, and the government trying to use them to achieve immortality. I wish this had been a little bit longer though, I would have liked to hear more about that world.
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a story told entirely in dialogue about a conversation between and husband and wife. It is a sweet but sad story that requires the reader to do a little work, reading between the lines to discover the whole story.
Pebbles is a lesbian love story, told to the backdrop of war.
Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel, Aunt Libby has roped her niece into playing the part of an angel of death in their islands coffin hotel. They offer guests a chance to experience death and be closer to lost loved ones, but their most recent guest brings an unexpected visitor with him.
Sea Devils is the story of two friends drifting apart as one chases a Hollywood dream, it’s also about women being ‘impure’ after having sex. Like Animals, I couldn’t get into this story due to descriptions of animal cruelty.
Human Satellites is about the discovery of a planet composed of soundbites from across space and time, and the way humans react to things that they do not understand.
Bright White Hearts looks at the way we see beauty, and how we associate beauty with worth. The main character has a physical deformity (not unlike author Jen Campbell’s Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia Clefting Syndrome) and works at an aquarium. The story reads like a stream of consciousness, giving us a glimpse into her life.
I am getting more and more into short stories recently, they are like the bento box of the literary world, a little taste of everything. It’s a great way to experiment with new authors or genres!