A book of short stories: Stranger Things Happen

strangerthingsI fell in love with Kelly Link’s writing style in “The Lady and the Fox,” one of the 12 short holiday stories included in the My True Love Gave to Me anthology, which was published last year. It made me want to read an entire book of her words.

Stranger Things Happen is the author’s first published collection, and was influenced by Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The Stories (and what I think they are about, because believe me, the themes are difficult to decipher):

1. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

“There were a lot of things I wish I’d said to you.”

What do you think would happen when you die? Would you wake up as a ghost in a room with the view of the sea? And when that happens, would you have the ability to recall the names of your loved ones? I think Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose is a story of regret–of not having peace after betraying someone you love. And forgetting your promise to that person is like forgetting that person’s name.

2. Water Off a Black Dog’s Back

“Tell me which you could sooner do without, love or water.”

If your life has been defined by a series of loss, would you choose to spend the rest of your life with someone who’s never lost anything in his/her life? Sometimes it takes more than attraction. You can only love someone completely the moment you understand that person’s pain.

3. The Specialist’s Hat

“When you’re Dead…you live in a box, and it’s always dark, but you’re never afraid.”

You can cheat life by playing dead.

4. Flying Lessons

“Have you ever dreamed you could fly, I mean with wings?”

If your lover could fly and travel to hell, would you follow?

5. Travels with the Snow Queen

“Where you are, where you are coming from, it is impossible to read a map made of paper. If it were that easy then everyone would be a traveler. You have heard of other travelers whose maps are breadcrumbs, whose maps are stones, whose maps are four winds, whose maps are yellow bricks laid one after the other. You read your map with your foot, and behind you somewhere there must be another traveler whose map is the bloody footprints that you are leaving behind you.”

This is my favorite piece of the eleven. I’ve always hated my visible and invisible scars. I wished they never existed. I never saw them as Kelly Link does in this story–as maps. When we look at our scars, they tell them where we’ve been, and where we’re going. And the trail of blood that those scars left behind forms another map, not for you, but for those who are traveling behind you.

6. Vanishing Act

“Life is a series of sudden disappearances, leavetakings without proper good-byes. Someday she too might vanish. Some days she looks forward to learning this trick.”

Sometimes you would meet someone who will show you a way to escape the box that confines you.

7. Survivor’s Ball, or, The Donner Party

“Someday, he knew, if he traveled long enough he would eventually come to a wonderful–a magical–place.”

We are all travelers. We are all survivors.

8. Shoe and Marriage

“When you are holding me, I don’t feel homesick at all.”

Shoes play a very significant role in our lives. They define who we are. They define our relationships. They define how we’ve lived our lives.

9. Most of My Friends are Two-Thirds Water

“When I say that some women are blondes, you will realize that I am probably not.”

If you’re not the type that your best friend would fall for (and you want him/her to fall for you) would you change who you are for that person? I tried… but the effects were temporary. So I think that’s never a good idea. Okay?

10. Louise’s Ghost

“Why is she always supposed to give up something? Why can’t other people share?”

Never. steal. your. best. friend’s. man. (You’ll get full custody of her daughter when she dies).

11. The Girl Detective

“No one will ever love you the way that you love them.”

The most confusing story of all. Who is the girl detective? Who is narrating the story? The Girl Detective doesn’t eat food. She eats dreams. (I’m not familiar with Nancy Drew so… sorry.)

My Rating: 2 stars

Kelly Link is a genius. Reading this collection is a bit depressing for readers like me who really take time to analyze events in a story, finding answers, and concluding endings. She finishes her stories without conclusion or solution. There were moments when I found myself asking “What did I just read? What was that about?” So… maybe I’ll read one of her books again… or maybe not. Still too early to tell 🙂


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