Mouth: Stories

Mouth, Puloma Ghosh's debut, is a collection of 11 sometimes surreal, sometimes horrifying, always startling short stories. Grappling with themes of female bodily autonomy, the connection between sexuality and death, and the haunting influence of grief, these stories will unsettle and fascinate in equal measure.

In "Desiccation," a teen girl develops a sexual fantasy about the only other Indian girl at her local ice rink, Pritha, whom she thinks is a vampire. Linked notions of grief and sexuality persist in "In the Winter," a flash piece about a woman's raw sexual encounters in college. Meanwhile, "Nip" is told from the perspective of a woman's favorite perfume, already aching from the loss of her lover's skin, and "Natalya" chillingly unspools the truth behind one woman's death through the perspective of her ex-lover's systematic autopsy of her corpse.

In these stories, Ghosh's visceral descriptions make the abstractions of desire and rage elusive, slippery as scent or blood between fingers. Like K-Ming Chang's carnal prose, Ghosh's delights in even the grotesque sides of sex and rebirth. But while her stories often include substantial violence, their climaxes focus more on transcendent, existential questions. The uncanny sense of some parallel, negative space, waiting to entrap someone or swallow them whole arises in "Lemon Boy." A girl who already feels alienated from her post-college life meets an enigmatic boy who awakens her awareness to black holes that follow him "like some kind of all-invasive flora" and constantly threaten to consume him. Like the story the Lemon Boy tells, Ghosh's stories awaken readers to the gaping presence of their own insatiable hungers. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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