Faithlessness among women runs through
Kiss Me Someone…less like a theme than a cactus spine. Injuries may be offhand, deliberate, even set up in childhood like bad genes waiting to switch on. In [Shepard's] hands, all are thrilling and nuanced…But all are humanized, or at least layered. Young girls comment with the brutal precision of scientists. Mothers inherited what they now dish out. This complexity puts Shepard on a shelf with writers like Margaret Atwood, who unraveled girl-on-girl bullying in Cat's Eye, and Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan Quartet takes a friendship through reverence, rivalry and betrayal…[Shepard] writes so powerfully, probing our darkest impulses, reporting back with the pure truth of fiction…we need her to keep probing the dangerous and quietly explosive parts of the human psyche, writing without shame about the hurtful things some women can do to their own.
The New York Times Book Review - Dylan Landis
This concise, disturbing collection by Shepard (The Celestials) covers several decades of the author’s work, often focusing on troubling experiences of women in the northeastern United States. Many of the protagonists are seen as “exotic” because of their races (as in “Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When”) and are ambivalent about their backgrounds. Most of the stories, with their slow-burning openings, rely more on telling detail than on plot. “Jerks” is a litany by the narrator of nasty men whose sexual advances she has accepted. “Girls Only” zooms in on a group of cynical bridesmaids, who, it’s gradually revealed, once allowed the bride to be sexually assaulted without helping her. Two stories are told in the collective voice—in “Popular Girls,” it’s a group of New York private school 10th-graders, and in “The Mothers” it’s a passel of suburban moms of high school basketball players—while other stories are from the points of view of the outsiders these hive minds cast out. The final, wrenching story, “Rescue,” about an accidental death and a dog, widens the world of a brief story out to include an entire community, and is as compassionate as it is horrifying. This is a sharp and memorable collection. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)
"Shepard's writing is breathtaking in its ability to capture minor but revelatory personal insights. With her crisp prose and sharp observations, she views characters with devastating and unflinching clarity. . . . A daringly written dissection of raw emotion through short stories about women on the edge and what they long for most."
"Karen Shepard’s characters vibrate with desire and disappointment, so obdurately individual that a whole world springs to life around them."
"Faithlessness among women runs through
Kiss Me Someone less like a theme than a cactus spine. Injuries may be offhand, deliberate, even set up in childhood like bad genes waiting to switch on. In her hands, all are thrilling and nuanced. . . . This complexity puts Shepard on a shelf with writers like Margaret Atwood . . . and Elena Ferrante."
The New York Times Book Review
"There is such a wondrous variety in these highly accomplished stories. They are rich with invention, with acute (sometimes alarming) awareness, dazzling insight, and pure, word virtuosity."
"[Shepard] is unflinching in her depictions of self-destructive choices and betrayal as well as friendship and love. One of her characters uses the phrase "ecstatic friction" . . . that term could apply to the whole no-holds-barred collection."
"Not since Virginia Woolf have the snares and scars of familial relationships been rendered with such brilliance, sensitivity, and icy understatement."
"In this captivating collection of stories, Karen Shepard turns her ever keen eye on women, and in her gaze is both love and a startling clarity. Readers of all kinds will find much to relish in this voice— from its storytelling surprises to the insights and sharp observations it extends, over and over, to us on the other side of the page."
"Dark yet sensitive explorations of family and love—of all kinds—from a masterful writer. The women at the centers of these stories are sharp-edged and complicated and irresistible; you won’t be able to look away."
"Shepard’s short stories explore relationships and familial love in all their messy complexity. [Her] unapologetically flawed characters make this collection an honest portrayal of womanhood."
"The stories in Karen Shepard's sharp collection
Kiss Me Someone focus on the lives and relationships of women—who are often mixed-race—with their mothers, daughters, granddaughters, friends, and with men. Dark and often disturbing, Kiss Me Someone gazes unflinchingly at womanhood, isolation, betrayal, sexual assault, infidelity, and the depths of human cruelty."
"Shepard excels in the rendering of dailiness, with lovely moments of linkage between cultures. "
Bomb Magazine - Amy Hempel
"Shepard is so perceptive, we feel as if we are part of the scene ourselves . . . These stories, and the characters that inhabit them, are so vivid, they will surely stay with readers for a good long while."
The boldness of the stories in this new collection from Shepard (The Celestials) is derived largely from the sometimes brash and unapologetic women populating the pages. Awaiting the onset of adulthood, they are sexually adventurous and hip to all kinds of trends but verging on either self-destruction or self-awareness or maybe both. "Girls Only" and "Popular Girls" are the most emblematic of these characters, while Zizi of "Don't Know Where, Don't Know When" is the most fully developed. Zizi lives in an apartment bought by her lover and located directly below the residence he shares with his wife. After his death in the 9/11 World Trade Center explosion, Zizi encounters his wife, whose strong personality matches hers. While Shepard's women are flawed, the author's balanced telling of imperfections ranging from selfishness to emotional detachment alongside some very real strengths reveals the "possibility of that best self to be waiting…at the end of the long, unhappy lesson" ("Kiss Me Someone"). VERDICT An accomplished collection. Recommended.—Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis
Women bear the dark consequences of infidelity, lies, and other betrayals.Novelist Shepard (The Celestials, 2013, etc.) has turned her keen eye to short fiction centered on the underbellies of the lives and relationships of women. The opening story, "Popular Girls," about private school students in New York, begins with an almost anthropological survey: "You know who we are. We're Kaethe and Alina, CJ and Sydney, Stephanie. We're Asian or Scandinavian, white or vaguely black." But if the reader expects an overview of Manhattan mean girls, the story quickly turns even more barbed than that when the popular girls—sophomores in high school—get into a limo with some strange men and end up, via a nightclub, at a strange apartment. Though the collective narrator admits to feeling "uneasy," the story ends, "Do with us what you dare. Do with us what you can." The chill of this ending shadows the whole book. In "Fire Horse," a woman courts an incestuous affair with her brother. In "Girls Only," the memory of their failure to help a friend during a sexual assault haunts a group of bridesmaids. Although many of the stories investigate the tangled aftermath of sexual anguish—from affairs with married men to gang rape—the greatest stories in this collection, "Light as a Feather" and "A Fine Life," both look at relationships between a daughter and a parent. These stories take Shepard's fascination with cruelty and soften those edges. "Light as a Feather" juxtaposes a stillbirth with the narrator's relationship with her mother, who suffers from dementia. "A Fine Line" examines a woman's unusual career path working with chimps and her past as a defector from communist China. Dark and sexually violent, Shepard's work can disturb—but her sharp prose and insights into the human psyche make it worth the read.