Published by Nan A. Talese on Sep. 16, 2014
Genres: Short Stories
Buy on The Book Depository
Last month, Margaret Atwood released a new short story collection called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. A new Atwood book is always cause for excitement, and this one was doubly exciting for me because it introduced me to a genre I haven’t seen Atwood tackle before. As an author, she is incredibly prolific and diverse in the type of writing she creates, churning out poetry, short stories, non-fiction, children’s books, and novels in genres as diverse as historical and speculative fiction. So far, I have only read two of her novels, The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, so I was excited to see her tackle short stories! As expected, I loved her new book and highly recommend it. Here are nine reasons why!
1. It’s a new freaking Margaret Atwood book!
She’s pretty much the greatest, and I would recommend her work to just about everyone. People who already love her will enjoy this book, and I think it’s also a great read for people new to her work. It’s smart, brilliantly executed, and has just a touch of whimsy.
2. It has some fantastic linked stories.
Linked short stories are one of my favorite formats; you get the compact narrative arcs of short stories, but you also get the satisfaction of remaining in a particular world for a longer time. The first three stories in this collection follow three romantically entangled writers and artists over the course of many decades, and they will appeal to novel and short story fans alike.
3. There’s a story in which the narrator finds all of the trappings from a wedding in an abandoned storage locker… complete with the desiccated remains of the groom.
“The Freeze-Dried Groom” is delightfully creepy, has a hint of danger, and ends on an ambiguous note Atwood fans will love.
4. There is a murder in the Arctic!
In “Stone Mattress,” a woman avenges a long-ago crime with chilling brilliance while on a cruise in the Arctic. And it involves stone mattresses!
5. You’ll learn what stone mattresses are.
(Hint: They have nothing to do with sleeping. Except maybe the cold sleep of death in the context of the above story.)
6. It deals with aging really gracefully.
I haven’t read many books that look at the lives of elderly people, and many of the stories in this collection do just that. Atwood approaches age with characteristic wisdom and humor. “Torching the Dusties” is a particularly good one; an elderly woman in a nursing home deals with Charles Bonnet syndrome while her nursing home is under siege by a populist group. It’s an excellent commentary on the way people view the elderly.
7. It contains innumerable brilliant quotes.
In true Atwood fashion, this book is full of smart quotes about everything from society’s demand for demons to punish, to the effects aging has on the body, to the reason young people act so full of themselves.
“A promise offered with a hint of self-mockery in case such a girl might think he was pompous and cocksure and full of himself. Which he was, because at that age you have to be that way in order to crawl out of bed in the morning and sustain your faith in your own illusory potential for the next twelve hours of being awake.”
8. While grounded mainly in reality, it has touches of magic and whimsy.
I wouldn’t call the stories in this book magical realism, but some of them contain hints of the supernatural. In “Alphinland,” a woman mentally locks an ex-lover away in the fantastical world of the best-selling books she writes. “Lusus Naturae” stars a woman whose genetic abnormality causes people to mistake her for a vampire, and the narrator in “Torching the Dusties” has a condition that makes her hallucinate little dancing people. While I think readers who like their fiction to remain in the realm of reality will enjoy this book, there’s just enough oddness to appeal to readers who like their stories to be a little bit quirky.
9. It’s a physically beautiful book.
The cover design is gorgeous (it somehow reminds me of the egg in Salvador Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus painting), and the pages have deckled edges!
Due to an unusual set of circumstances that would take too long to explain (the confusion involved my apartment move), I wound up receiving two finished copies of Stone Mattress from the publisher. Since I have no need to own two copies, I’m excited to have the opportunity to give one away to a lucky reader!
This giveaway will run through 12 a.m. Oct. 30 and is open to US/CA residents. I will notify the winner within 24 hours, and he/she must respond with his/her mailing address within one week, or I will choose another winner. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below!
Disclosure: If you make a purchase through the link above, I will make a tiny commission.