by Helen Phillips
This book is a collection of many stories, all just 340 words long, arranged in twenty groups. The groupings could be seen as relationship milestones (the fights, the brides, the weddings, the wives, the offspring) or warnings (the envies, the mistakes, the monsters, the apocalypses) or a list of almost fairytale like elements, a checklist of the stuff stories are made from (the failures, the mothers, the hauntings). There are between four and ten stories in each group, simply titled “Far-Flung Family #3” or “Drought #6”.
It sounds well-organized, and it is, and that is so you don’t get lost in the two pages of strangeness. Not that you’d really get lost, as these stories are recognizably about relationships, in all their bizarreness, deceit, hope, and wonder. That’s really what each of the groupings are — refracted views of a relationship.
If you are looking for a conventional novel, with a plot that moves from point A to point B, skip this as it will make you crazy. If on the other hand you are up for something more experimental, a read that might not always make linear or literal sense but still pulls you in, give it a try. Phillips can be playful and biting and writes lines that you’ll find yourself returning to, like this one:
Why, why, why does this always happen? Reality lags so very far behind everything else.
Recommended. If you are curious, there’s more info and a book trailer on the author’s website.