From Lauren Groff, author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling first novel The Monsters of Templeton, comes Delicate Edible Birds, one of the most striking short fiction debuts in recent years. Here are nine stories of astonishing insight and variety, each revealing a resonant drama within the life of a twentieth-century American woman.
In “Sir Fleeting,” a Midwestern farm girl on her honeymoon in Argentina falls into lifelong lust for a French playboy. In “Blythe,” an attorney who has become a stay-at-home mother takes a night class in poetry and meets another full-time mother, one whose charismatic brilliance changes everything. In “The Wife of the Dictator,” that eponymous wife (“brought back . . . from [the dictator’s] last visit to America”) grows more desperately, menacingly isolated every day. In “Delicate Edible Birds,” a group of war correspondents—a lone, high-spirited woman among them—falls sudden prey to a brutal farmer while fleeing Nazis in the French countryside. In “Lucky Chow Fun,” Groff returns us to Templeton, the setting of her first book, for revelations about the darkness within even that idyllic small town.
In some of these stories, enormous changes happen in an instant. In others, transformations occur across a lifetime—or several lifetimes.
Throughout the collection, Groff displays particular and vivid preoccupations. Crime is a motif—sex crimes, a possible murder, crimes of the heart. Love troubles recur; they’re in every story—love in alcoholism, in adultery, in a flood, even in the great flu epidemic of 1918. Some of the love has depths, which are understood too late; some of the love is shallow, and also understood too late. And mastery is a theme—Groff’s women swim and baton twirl, become poets, or try and try again to achieve the inner strength to exercise personal freedom.
Overall, these stories announce a notable new literary master. Dazzlingly original and confident, Delicate Edible Birds will further Groff’s growing reputation as one of the foremost talents of her generation.
“It takes only a few pages to see that Ms. Groff can write—really write.”
—New York Observer
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