Island Rule

Some short story collections are treats to be consumed like little chocolates, with delight and frivolity. Other collections, rich like a multi-course meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, are meant to be devoured. Island Rule by Katie M. Flynn (The Companions) is the latter. In these 12 interconnected stories, Flynn's deft hand brings readers backward and forward in time, all the while weaving her characters into an impressive tapestry and fully fleshing out a world of monsters--real and imagined alike.

In the first story, "Disaster Kids," Flynn writes of a mother who turns monstrous, her own voracious sadness resulting in a transformation so visceral it needs to be read to be believed. After all, "monsters are everywhere," and Flynn convinces readers of just that. In the titular story, a professor does what she can to keep her job and her sanity as she deals with her past, constantly reliving the nightmares of bullets, soldiers, and a disease that forced some people on her home island to swell at an exorbitant rate while others, like her, shrank. The story gets under the reader's skin; Flynn reveals situations layer by layer as she illustrates how dark life can be, and that sometimes people stand in the way of the light and make it darker. "Can you calculate loneliness?" the narrator of "Island Rule" muses. "Is it a measurable quality?" Brilliantly, eerily, and soundly, Flynn uses these characters to contrast feelings of isolation and rejection while never staying in the territory of any one genre, but using genre as a tool to tell a grander story of humanity. --Dominic Charles Howarth, book manager, Book + Bottle

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