Expected publication: January 3, 2017
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Roxane Gay is one talented writer. I’m not usually one for short-stories but I really enjoyed this collection. Many of the stories first appeared in publications such as Best American Mystery Stories, American Short Fiction, The Minnesota Review, Best American Short Stories and many others.
“a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.”
The stories feature women from many different backgrounds. Lives of privilege, poverty, and everywhere in between. Young and old. Married, in a relationship, or single. These women are all haunted by something or someone. Many have suffered severe and traumatic experiences and all of the stories are told with a raw and brutal honesty. These are not your “typical” love stories but there is still love in its many different forms.
I definitely preferred some stories more than others but found something in many of them that I could relate to or sympathize with. Many of the stories had similar themes ( violence, love, hate, sex, guilt, trauma, loss, motherhood, race, relationships, and abuse) but all of the women had their own distinct voice. I found myself becoming quite emotional while reading these stories, and more than a few brought me to tears.
There are many more stories that I’ll not soon forget. However, the following are the ones that will definitely remain with me for a very long time:
I Will Follow You – This is the very first story and it broke my heart into about a million pieces. A story about two sisters who are now adults but who were both abducted as children.
The Mark of Cain – About a woman married to a man with an identical twin. The twins like to switch places sometimes, they think she doesn’t know….they are wrong.
Difficult Women – The story from which the title stems. A story about loose women, frigid women, crazy women, mothers, and dead girls.
Break All the Way Down – I was in tears throughout this entire story.
“Every time that man sank his fists into my body, I could breathe a little. I used one hurt to cover another”
Open Marriage – Can yogurt expire?
Best Features – Oh my did this one make me angry.
“I don’t normally go for girls like you but big girls try harder”
Overall, this was such a great collection of stories about women whose lives are truly difficult. However, many of these “Difficult Women” also have a tremendous amount of strength, endurance, and even hope.
Thank you to NetGalley, Grove Press and Roxane Gay for an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.