A NYLON Best New Book of the Month
A Lambda Literary Most Anticipated Book of the Month
"In the opening story of Spell Heaven, a fishwife asks the narrator, 'Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story?' . . . This artful collection of 23 linked stories, a sort of 'Cannery Row' of Northern California, is both. The hardscrabble characters tell their sea stories, but the sea that surrounds the inhabitants of the small town of Seaview is like a capricious character in a fairy tale. It tosses boats, drowns with rogue waves, yet sometimes washes up treasures." —Thaisa Frank, San Francisco Chronicle
"Mirosevich indulges in the smell, the stink, and the happy-making of these character interactions . . . [She] knows how to look and how to be generous with her observations. She's not profiling these characters to exploit them and their quirks for our amusement, though she knows we will be amused. They are not a sideshow for the narrator. She shares their stories because they have taught her something about herself, to presume nothing . . . After reading Spell Heaven, I'm left with this impression: who we become has more to do with how we accept our lives than how we plan them. We are always changing, always in some kind of flux . . . With this collection, Mirosevich has done it. In truth, she is a sea captain, standing at the helm, scanning the horizon line, that seam between what we see and what we know." —Miah Jeffra Milla, Bay Area Reporter
"Beautifully crafted." —San Francisco Bay Times
"Living through a global pandemic provides its own kind of 'fish story,' but it’s the real thing that occupies Mirosevich, herself (like her narrator) the daughter of a fisherman and a cannery worker, bound inextricably to the sea, body and soul. Not ineffably, though—Mirosevich’s personal language and cadence is of the sea and is a known language to everyone who has descended from seafaring or sea-sifting people . . . The sentences are tossed by uneven swells and surges, of waves crashing and hulls listing catastrophically. Even in quieter moments, landlocked moments, the lines move at times at a twelve-knot clip over rolling swells, at other times at anchor, letting light ripples nudge the lines in trochaic pulses." —Jennifer Carr, Boom California
"I look forward to spotting shimmers from my upbringing on the page. Thus, when I learned that Toni Mirosevich set her new linked story collection, Spell Heaven, almost entirely in a rural Northern California fishing town, where 'fog barrels in from the sea' and tourists are nuisances, I was intrigued. The book seemed to fulfill my Podunk checklist. And having now read the collection’s 23 stories, I commend Mirosevich for her attention to detail. Throughout, she smartly captures both the daily grind of the lower-middle class and the chip on the shoulder attitudes that simmer within all small towns. In these stories, Mirosevich’s greatest strength is her ability to capture her narrator’s personality through indirect means . . . The author’s past as a poet (Mirosevich has published several poetry collections) twinkles through . . . the language at play in Spell Heaven frequently delights." —Benjamin Woodard, On the Seawall
"A seamlessly written book full of beautiful connections." —Kirkus Reviews
"I would like to wrap myself inside of Toni Mirosevich's words, so that their warmth, vitality, and haunting insights into our humanity will somehow absorb into my thoughts and skin, and I will become a better person. The characters in these unforgettable stories are clever, at times peculiar, but always full of heart. Their experiences stay with you long after you close this book. This is a beautiful collection." —Aimee Phan, author of We Should Never Meet and The Reeducation of Cherry Truong
"To read Spell Heaven is to be swept away to the sea, and fish and neighbors, and a small town on the California coast; to be swept away along through associations and stunning imagery; to be pulled in close by the intimate voice of a good friend who knows how to swear and spool shimmering reams of language." —Nina Schuyler, author of the award-winning novel The Translator
"Deeply evocative, Toni Mirosevich’s Spell Heaven is a compelling collection whose narrator ponders memory, time, and lost worlds. With lyrical insight, she explores the mystery and the margins, the people and places, of the hardscrabble seaside town where she and her wife have made home. A gem." —Vanessa Hua, Forbidden City
"I love these stories—the delicious humor, the unvarnished exchanges, the characters in all of their wonderful, painful complexity, and Toni's gift for finding meaning in the most ordinary moments of a life. Spell Heaven triumphs again and again." —Patricia Powell, author of The Fullness of Everything and Me Dying Trial
After debuting with the multi-award-finalist Godshot, Bieker returns with stories of Heartbroke characters whose loves and losses unfold in California's sunstruck Central Valley. Former Wallace Stegner Fellow Folk debuts with a collection of absurdist stories, including Out There, a piece published in The New Yorker about a woman whose attempts to use a dating app are disrupted by incredibly handsome yet artificial men deployed by Russian hackers. Acquired in a two-book deal that includes his debut novel, NYU Starworks fellow Friedlander's The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land is set in Israel and the Middle East and features outsiders who must contend with past sorrow or future uncertainty. A second collection after Light Lifting, which was short-listed for Giller, Commonwealth, and Frank O'Connor honors, MacLeod's Animal Person explores those moments when one's life is about to change (25,000-copy first printing). From poet Mirosevich, also author of the award-winning nonfiction Pink Harvest, Spell Heaven offers linked stories about a lesbian couple finding happiness in a coastal town. From Newman, whose memoir Still Points North was a finalist for the National Book Critic Circle's John Leonard Prize, Nobody Gets Out Alive highlights women struggling to get by in rugged Alaska (50,000-copy first printing). Witchcraft, blue jaguars, and a California rainforest-set novella starring Maria, Maria and possibly more Marias all feature in this mystical debut from former PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow Rubio.
A Bay Area writing professor narrates these interconnected stories, emphasizing the importance of memory and shared experience.
"Is it possible you might need to carry something from the past, from what has happened to what will be?" the narrator asks, and this question weaves itself throughout the stories. In nonchronological yet seamless order, the narrator recalls moments of her life, often weaving flashbacks and thoughtful, sometimes humorous or horrifying anecdotes into the main narrative. In “Murderer’s Bread," she and her partner, Stevie, leave the city for a quieter, more conservative coastal town, where they worry about fitting in. Their concerns about homophobia are palpable, yet the couple embraces the neighborhood’s other outsiders, forming an unlikely community despite their doubts. In “As If You and I Agree,” a contemporary pandemic story, the narrator’s anger at two men not wearing masks builds until she surreptitiously curses them with her middle finger while pushing up her sunglasses. The interaction—which occurs as she's taking her morning walk on a path next to the beach—is familiar, latching on to the heightened emotions about public health circa 2020, but what happens next is unique and aptly illustrated. In silence, she unites with her PPE–defying enemies at the rare sight of a humpback whale, breaching "like a huge middle digit,” just like the finger she insulted the men with moments before. Though the narrator's nostalgic tone can sometimes feel forlorn, there's an overarching sense of optimism in her recollections, with beads of wisdom scattered throughout the book. "You can have a life where whatever you catch brings you joy," she says on a pier near her adopted home, reminiscing about the time she saw a man laugh as sea gulls plucked a comma-shaped pink shrimp, perhaps bait, from his fingers—a simple memory that she distills to its moral essence.
A seamlessly written book full of beautiful connections.