When Mystical Creatures Attack! (Iowa Short Fiction Award) (Paperback)
Kathleen Founds' collection of linked short stories introduces a young teacher who has a breakdown and the students for whom she's already made a difference. We get her story through emails and letters, through essays her students wrote, through progress reports at the psych ward, through recipes, and through answers in an advice column. Can a book be both whimsical and heavy? I wouldn't have thought so -- until this book fell into my hands. (Emily)— From Emily
The lives of Janice, Cody, and Ms. Freedman are revealed through in-class essays, letters, therapeutic journal exercises, an advice column, a reality show television transcript, a diary, and a Methodist women’s fundraising cookbook. (Recipes include “Dark Night of the Soul Food,” “Render Unto Caesar Salad,” and “Valley of the Shadow of Death by Chocolate Cake.”) In “Virtue of the Month,” the ghost of Ms. Freedman’s mother argues that suicide is not a choice. In “The Un-Game,” Janice’s chain-smoking nursing home charge composes a dirty limerick. In “The Hall of Old-Testament Miracles,” wax figures of Bible characters come to life, hungry for Cody’s flesh.
Set against a South Texas landscape where cicadas hum and the air smells of taco stands and jasmine flowers, these stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to achingly poignant. This surreal, exuberant collection mines the dark recesses of the soul while illuminating the human heart.