After Shawn posted his interview with Caitlin Horrocks, I immediately went to her website, which led me to the Paris Review, which led me to her short story, “At the Zoo.” Immediately after reading that, I went to the Sarabande Books website to secure a copy of her new book of short stories, This Is Not Your City. It could not wait. Soon thereafter, the book arrived in my mailbox, and I’ve felt a little shackled for the past week or two, knowing I had to wait until all my school work was done to read it. But now the school work is done, and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in Horrocks’ fictional world.
These eleven stories knocked my socks off. I loved all of them, even the story, “It Looks Like This,” which experiments with the use of pictures in story. It had me worried at first, but really delivered a unique story with emotional punch: a young girl, trapped by an ill mother, seeking friendship with an Amish quilter. “At the Zoo,” wowed me with its use of point of view, and the author’s intimate understanding of all three main characters. “This Is Not Your City” and “Going to Estonia” taught me a lot about Finnish culture, and I do love fiction that teaches me fact. “Steal Small” and “Embodied” kicked me in the guts, shocking me with their characters’ behavior in a way that I can’t recall being shocked in short stories before. But I think my favorite, on my first read of this collection (I do intend to read it again–and maybe a few more times after that) is probably “Zero Conditional,” because I left it thinking, I wish I wrote this.
In many ways, This Is Not Your City has it all. Gleaming prose, startlingly complex characters, a heckuva lot of surprise, but also: pirates, the Amish, reincarnation, a mail-order bride, anteaters, a time machine, and a magical land called Zolaria. These are brave, well-crafted stories that surge with imagination and human understanding. You should probably go to the Sarabande Website and order this book.
I mean it.