Before and Afterlives: Stories

Overview

Discover the haunting stories of Crawford Award-winning author Christopher Barzak in his new collection Before and Afterlives. These are tales of relationships with unearthly domesticity and eeriness: a woman falls in love with a haunted house; a beached mermaid is substituted for a lost missing daughter; the imaginary friend of a murdered young mother stalks the streets of her small town; a teenage boy is afflicted with a disease that causes him to vanish; a father exploits his daughter's talent for calling ...
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Before and Afterlives: Stories

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Overview

Discover the haunting stories of Crawford Award-winning author Christopher Barzak in his new collection Before and Afterlives. These are tales of relationships with unearthly domesticity and eeriness: a woman falls in love with a haunted house; a beached mermaid is substituted for a lost missing daughter; the imaginary friend of a murdered young mother stalks the streets of her small town; a teenage boy is afflicted with a disease that causes him to vanish; a father exploits his daughter's talent for calling ghosts to her; and a wife leaves her husband and children to fulfill her obligations to a world from which she escaped.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barzak’s second collection of literary horror (after Birds and Birthdays) focuses on largely passive protagonists who spin destruction and madness out of everyday events: broken relationships (“Born on the Edge of an Adjective”), lost children (“The Drowned Mermaid”), and the deaths of loved ones (“A Mad Tea Party”). Absent fathers are common features, as are ghosts and revenants that are generally more interested in reminding the living of their presence than in bloody revenge. The more optimistic pieces, such as “The Language of Moths,” focus on self-actualization prompted by a hint of supernatural intervention. Masterfully crafted but emotionally distant, the stories are more to be admired than enjoyed. Individually, each one packs a punch, but a certain sameness of tone from piece to piece keeps the collection from truly excelling. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
In his latest short-story collection, Barzak (Birds and Birthdays, 2012, etc.) charmingly yet disturbingly juxtaposes fantastic and gritty realities. The 17 stories collected here bring readers into worlds where mermaids beckon to the sea, where a boy wrapped in barbed wire becomes wrapped up in love, where the end of the world is just another way to find yourself, and where ordinary characters meet extraordinary circumstances. Barzak takes what readers know (or think they do) and skews the view, exposing a new side of reality. In "A Mad Tea Party," ex-druggie Alice is trapped in a psychotic wonderland of emotional confusion, and in "The Other Angelas," a woman literally splits herself apart to handle an emotionally abusive husband. In an elegant, stylistic example of second-person narration, one of the shorter stories, "A Beginner's Guide to Survival Before, During, and After the Apocalypse," showcases Barzak's fluid, uncomplicated and provocative craftsmanship: "At night, build a small fire out of moss and straw and twigs. Do not risk the luxury of true warmth and light." As the varied characters move from apathetic to desperate, hopeful to curious, they deal with subject matter so fantastic, the importance of a solid foundation becomes paramount. Here and there, an out-of-place phrase or a slip in narrative voice may take readers out of the carefully constructed stories, but fortunately, those instances are few and far between. Instead, readers will eagerly follow Barzak as he utilizes his natural storytelling talents. Fans of speculative fiction especially will enjoy this ride through the fantastic worlds Barzak conjures. By stretching a bit past reality, these stories reveal it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590213698
  • Publisher: Lethe Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2013
  • Pages: 242
  • Sales rank: 1,372,265
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

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