What I Didn't See

Karen Joy Fowler, Small Beer (Consortium, dist.), $24 (256p) ISBN 978-1-931520-68-3
The bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club goes genre-busting in this engrossing and thought-provoking set of short stories that mix history, sci-fi, and fantasy elements with a strong literary voice. Whether examining the machinations of a Northern California cult, in "Always," or a vague but obviously horrific violent act in the eerie title story, the PEN/Faulkner finalist displays a gift for thrusting familiar characters into bizarre, off-kilter scenarios. Fowler never strays from the anchor of human emotion that makes her characters so believable, even when chronicling the history of epidemics, ancient archeological digs, single family submersibles, or fallen angels. She even displays a keen understanding of the historical world around Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, in two wonderfully realized historical pieces. Her writing is sharp, playful, and filled with insights into the human condition. The genre shifts might surprise fans of her mainstream hit, but within these pages they'll find familiar dramas and crises that entertain, illuminate, and question the reality that surrounds us. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/26/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
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