Short stories are deceptive. We’re led to believe that smaller and shorter means faster and easier to pull off, yet any fiction writer worth their salt will tell you that trying to cram an entire story into a few pages is no easy task, and writing a truly great short story takes far more time than some might imagine. Think about that, and multiply it by however many stories the authors of the following exemplary collections have written to fill their books in a year when major media outlets started to take note of the fact that we are indeed living through a truly great time for the short story.
The Isle of Youth, Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
With her second collection of short stories, it has become quite clear that Lauren van den Berg possesses a scary talent that is only growing by the day. This collection, the best of the year with its eight stories of people (mostly women) who are put into bad situations by loved ones, really sticks to your ribs — largely because van den Berg doesn’t try to dazzle us with any fancy tricks. Rather, she concocts these tales that leave us wondering if the characters are messing up or if some unseen force is messing with the characters, incorporating measurements of sweet and sour that tend to tip heavier towards the latter.