My daughter says, in Spanish, Nothing is absolute. Which is strange, because she doesn’t know Spanish, because they don’t offer language here until high school. In the meantime, teachers tweeze out slivers of state history and implant these fragments in kids’ heads. Did you know the salamander is our state amphibian? Did you know we were once the Iodine State?
It’s true the alley was dim, and the alley was cool, a relief from the glare of the street. Ducking into the alley was like slipping into a shadow. It was like dropping something heavy. It was like breaking the surface of the water to take a deep breath.
The Greyhound bus between Iowa City and Des Moines. The sound of bagpipes after dark. The conversations of strangers. Jagged Little Pill. Clement Street, in San Francisco. Jealousy. Kit Kats. Chlorine.
In life, we come up against people or situations that are unexpected and that shake us to our core. And I think a lot of my stories are interested in what we do when that happens. How do we react? Who do we reach out to? Who do we push away?
Still, what is “surprising” in Malinda McCollum’s excellent new book and winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction is not a matter of geography, in the prosaic sense. Rather, it concerns a different kind of space, a province of heart and mind.