The best kind of short-story collection doesn’t so much contain digestible vignettes as offer up chewy, meaty Everlasting Gobstoppers for reader consumption and reflection. Roxane Gay‘s Difficult Women does exactly that.
The stories in Difficult Women range from hard realism to flights of fancy. People made of glass stand alongside kidnapping victims and the children of idealistic miners. The uniting element in Gay’s collection is the author’s focus on those women who defy containment, definition, and expectations.
Difficult Women does not present us with clearly defined heroines. Here, strong women make the worst possible choices, and weak warblers find their voices, but none feel so far removed from reality that the reader cannot imagine herself making similar decisions. Theirs are not easy paths to walk, but Gay does not demand our respect for her characters. Instead, respect flows freely from the wisdom that, even if we do not understand what has molded each woman, she is as she is because of solid reasons.
Gay’s short-story collection delights with the beauty of its prose and the slow unfolding of its tales. Difficult Women will make you want to shove a bookmarked story into a friend’s hands, just so you can share the experience.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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