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.
What do you do when your long-term boyfriend’s dad might be dying? Well, you get married quick so he can make it, of course. You were already headed in that direction—I mean, you’re practically living together as it is. What harm could it do? He’s a nice guy, he just has a few quirks, but nothing you can’t handle. I’m sure the Catholic thing won’t come up much.
Joanna Rose’s novel, A Small Crowd of Strangers, asks and answers the age-old question: “What happens if I marry the wrong person?” Rose paints a quaint life for Pattianne Anthony—a small town librarian with a casual sex life, a smoking habit, and a family that communicates with a series of unspoken words, if they communicate at all. All of that changes when she meets Michael Bryn, the choir boy who can do no wrong. Rose takes us on a spiritual journey with Pattianne as we begin to see that sometimes religion and identity can become one and the same.