I haven’t read more than a couple of short stories since high school, and I’m not sure I have ever read a whole collection of short stories by a single author. So, when I started reading Get in Trouble, a book of short stories by Kelly Link, for Booktopia last month, I didn’t know what to expect. I needn’t have worried. I was completely pulled into each unique story and thoroughly enjoyed all nine stories in the collection.
Kelly’s stories are all a bit…well, weird (and I know from meeting her that she takes that as a compliment!). Most of them feature a world that is very much like our own, expect that it isn’t, quite. She weaves one or more unique – often supernatural or sci-fi type – elements into what is otherwise a story about human relationships. Her stories include ghosts, life-size animated dolls, real-life superheroes, and all kinds of other strange phenomena that defy easy classification.
In I Can See Right Through You, a famous movie star travels to Florida to visit his best friend/ex-girlfriend on location at her ghost-hunting reality show. Much of the story is about their relationship – past and present – but there is an ever-present tension in the story as the crew (all naked, by the way, since their current show is about an old nudist camp) waits for ghosts to show themselves.
Origin Story takes place mostly in an old, run-down Wizard of Oz amusement park. At first, it seems to be about the relationship between two old high school friends, though it quickly becomes apparent that one of them is a famous superhero and the other has an interesting power of her own. The two friends have deep discussions about life and love, reminiscing about their childhood together, bantering about fairy tales and the Wizard of Oz, but their conversations are also peppered with superhero topics – why tights?, which super powers kids from high school ended up with, and how exhausting it is to be featured in a parade. It’s all very realistic yet somewhat surreal at the same time.
In Two Houses, the entire crew of a spaceship are all woken up from stasis at the same time to celebrate a birthday. They sit around the table in their ship, enjoying the realistic earth settings that the ship’s computer creates for them, and chatting, like you would with good friends. They decide to tell ghost stories, many of them passed down in their families for generations. It gets a bit too scary for some of them, and then there is a Twilight Zone-like twist that makes your head spin.
In Light, the last story of the collection, Kelly pulls out all the stops. There are werewolves, people who drop suddenly into a mysterious sleep and are then stored in a warehouse, and pocket universes that people travel to on vacation or even move to. The main character, Lindsey, was born with two shadows, and her extra shadow eventually spawned a real twin. This is, apparently, not all that unusual, though there is some prejudice against people with two shadows. The story follows Lindsey through a week when her twin brother comes to visit and a hurricane hits her town in southern Florida.
All of the stories in the book, despite their weirdness, focus on people and their relationships. I was completely drawn into each new world, pulled into the story and attached to the characters, though each story felt like it ended at just the right time. This was something I’d worried about with short stories – I thought I’d feel suddenly yanked out of the story. Kelly tells each story in a way that feels complete – she packs so much into each one that you feel as if you’ve read a short novel. As you can see from the few descriptions above, she brings ample imagination and creativity to each new world, yet they all feel familiar in some ways. Get in Trouble has opened my eyes to the world of short stories, and I can’t wait to read more – both from Kelly Link and from other authors.
333 pages, Random House