R.I.P. Aaron John Curtis, 10/16/72 – 2/19/17 Cause of death? Reading Roxane Gay‘s “Strange Gods,” the final story in her most recent collection.
All of the stories in Difficult Women have appeared (“in slightly altered form”) in various publications before they were collected here, and I imagine that readers who have experienced these stories individually have been as undone as I was the first time I read “Strange Gods.” Each of Gay’s works packs the punch of life, in all its laughable, tragic, wry, gutting glory.
Read in succession, some of the narratives blend into each-other; the voices are sisters from the same dysfunctional household, struggling to move beyond their pain. This is a valid criticism but it overlooks the larger critique inherent in Gay’s work: these are sisters who grew up in the same dysfunctional household; America is that house, and society fails to offer them any tangible support. Instead, these women generally find help in each-other (or in that rare find, a Good Man).
Twins, trauma, abuse physical, sexual, and psychological, couples both poorly-matched and star-crossed, sex in many forms, babies lost babies and found, family ties, and Magic Realism are running themes. Gay’s eye for detail and knack for empathy brings every character off the page. I don’t think she could write a boring story (or even sentence) if she tried.
If you like short stories, don’t miss this one. And if you like literate fiction, you can’t do better.