Caitlin Vance’s debut short story collection simultaneously stuns and alarms audiences. The Paper Garden’s stories are separate pieces of fiction that instantly draw the reader into their unique and memorable world. The stories range from children’s experiences comprehending the world around them, realistic queer romances, reimagined biblical passages, and stories blanketed in a fresh take on mental illnesses. Where Vance truly shines is utilizing her obscure yet easily understood metaphors, and her ability to transform her character’s voices into meaning that embodies each reader's unique circumstance. Regardless of some of Vance’s collection being centered in a fantastical version of reality, she also utilizes her writing to make light of undeniable truths about religion, relationships, gender, love, and societal norms. What Vance is truly putting forth through her writing is the idea that nothing should be taken at face value, and everything should be questioned for its supposed authority and validity.
by Erin Theresa Welsh
Relationships, no matter what type, are complex. Society sees friendships as one of the strongest relationships that can be established, and romantic relationships are one of the more challenging and delicate things to be a part of. Either way, both seem to be crucially important to human culture, and both tend to have a strong impact on an individual’s life.
Kim Magowan’s novel, The Light Source, is an interestingly realistic and compelling perspective on creating, maintaining, and destroying relationships over a lifetime. Each chapter is a whirlwind of new perspectives and opinions from each character and helps the audience get to know them personally and understand them more. Magowan writes the entire book split into the perspectives of seven of the main characters while the chapters jump through time to give the audience a well-rounded view of the same event surrounding each friend. Though it has a lot of back and forth throughout time and perspectives, it sticks to the main topic of Heather and Julie’s friendship and, eventually, their romantic relationship and how every character’s life ends up panning out. It is like a butterfly effect of one person’s actions or reactions causing a difference in another’s life and eventual outcome.
Each of us finds a way to cope with the hurdles and pain that life throws our way. Some turn towards their work, others to more destructive means. Then, there’s Josh Denslow. In his collection of stories Not Everyone is Special, Denslow covers a range of topics with his characters: from being a child of divorce, to being a survivor in the aftermath of a friends’ suicide, to being a little person in today’s world. His approach is to use humor not only to build up the narrative in each story, but show how people use it as a form of self-preservation and self-defense in ways that are true to real life, even when he is putting a character in a world where people have superpowers like being able to get the wrinkles out of shirts by patting them down with their hands or extending and retracting their facial hair in real time.